Flesh-eating ulcer spreading in Australia and reasons remain am

Henrietta Strickland
April 16, 2018

The symptoms of the Buruli ulcer include destroyed skin and soft tissue, swelling of the skin, one or more slow-growing painless ulcers.

"The time to act is now, and we advocate for local, regional and national governments to urgently commit to funding the research needed to stop Buruli ulcer".

But most are from Victoria where there's a worsening epidemic, including 182 new cases in 2016, 275 in 2017 and 30 so far in 2018.

Scientists in Australia have voiced concern about an apparent outbreak of Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating disease that usually occurs in West and central Africa. But even this number was dwarfed by a further increase of 51% from November 2016 to the same month a year later. It's also often referred to as the Buruli ulcer or the Daintree ulcer because it occurs in parts of north Queensland.

"It's a pretty frightening explosion in case numbers", Dr O'Brien, an associate professor from the University of Melbourne, said.

Australia has seen an increasing number of cases being reported since 2013, according to WHO.

The bacterium that causes the disease belongs to the same family of organisms that cause tuberculosis and leprosy.

Though some deaths from the disease have been reported, most cases are not life-threatening, according to Garchitorena.

Monday's report reveals about 2000 cases are reported each year and that "most cases are reported from temperate".

Although the disease has been acknowledged to exist in the state since 1948, very little progress has been made in curtailing the bacterium simply because we actually know very little about it. Different combinations of antibiotics are given to the patient to have it for 8 weeks.

"All age groups, including young children, are affected, and the emotional and psychological impact on patients and their carers is substantial".

Most cases in Victoria are occurring on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas. However, one expert hypothesis is that the infection is spread by mosquitoes and possums. Although it can be treated with powerful (side-effect prone) antibiotics, particularly damaging infections can require reparative plastic surgery.

They are also baffled as to why most of the Australian infections have been in the state of Victoria, while New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have been mostly spared.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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