An epidemic caused by a bacteria that devours the skin intrigues doctors in Australia

An epidemic caused by a bacteria that devours the skin intrigues doctors in Australia


Doctors in Australia asked the authorities of that country to urgently investigate why an ulcer caused by a bacteria that destroys the skin has become epidemic in the state of Victoria.

The cases of Buruli ulcer, a dermatological disease most commonly found in Africa, have increased by 400% in the last four years , experts say.

Infections have also turned out to be more serious and spread to new areas of the country.

According to the World Health Organization, the disease is caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans , a bacterium that destroys the skin tissues.

“It usually starts with painless nodules, usually in the arms and legs, and the nodules turn into large ulcers with a whitish yellow base.” Detected early, Buruli ulcer can be cured with combinations of antibiotics , but if not diagnosed in time. , can cause permanent disfigurement and disability, “says the WHO.

Doctors do not know how to prevent the disease.

The state of Victoria registered a record 275 new infections last year, which represents an increase of 51% over 2016 .

“More severe”

Dr. Daniel O’Brien, a specialist in infectious diseases, points out that cases of Buruli ulcer have become “amazingly more common and more severe” in that region.

Queensland landscape
Image caption Some years ago, infections were more commonly reported in tropical areas of the state of Queensland.

And he said that it has not yet been clarified why the ulcer, which is commonly found in tropical areas, appeared in the temperate climate of Victoria.

In a text published in the medical journal Medical Journal of Australia , doctors asked for government funding to investigate the disease and its causes.

“Nobody understands what is happening and what is causing this epidemic,” he told BBC O’Brien, co-author of the publication.

“We can give clues, but not a definitive opinion, it’s a mystery .”

The doctor said that some theories link factors such as rainfall, soil type and wildlife.

Last year, authorities found traces of the bacteria in opossum feces, a type of marsupial.

“The problem is that we do not have time to sit down and pontificate on that – the epidemic reached frightening proportions,” he said.


Ulcers are difficult to treat and patients often experience a recovery period between six and twelve months.

Many also need to undergo reconstructive surgery, O’Brien added.

Last year, when the outbreak of the disease was already warned, O’Brien explained to the BBC that “the bacteria slowly devours the skin and tissue until the treatment is received.”

” The more time you let go, the situation gets worse, it’s a progressive and destructive infection,” he said.

The health authorities of Victoria say they have spent almost US $ 770,000 in research on the disease and that they launched educational campaigns to raise awareness about the problem.

Until a few years ago, infections were more commonly reported in tropical areas of the state of Queensland and there were cases reported in other states, but occasionally.

The disease is more frequent in the rural areas of West Africa, Central Africa, New Guinea, Latin America and tropical regions of Asia.

In developing countries, it is associated with wetlands. However, in Australia, cases have been widely reported in coastal regions .

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