Scientists in Australia warn of 'rapidly worsening epidemic' of flesh-eating ulcer

Modesto Morganelli
Aprile 16, 2018

In a letter published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia, a trio of doctors says incidents of Buruli ulcer have surged by 400 per cent in the last four years. "This uncertainty is epitomized by the World Health Organization (WHO), which notes that the type of people that are infected, and the fact the disease specifically manifests itself in a case-by-case way, "[varies] considerably within and across different countries and settings".

The bacteria that causes the ulcers attaches to its host and causes "severe destructive lesions of skin and soft tissue, resulting in significant morbidity", the report states.

"It is hard to prevent a disease when it is not known how infection is acquired", write the authors, led by Dr. Daniel O'Brien, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne.

Most cases are occurring on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, but there is a risk the "nasty disease" could spread to other coastal areas, possibly through possum faeces, Dr Sutton said.

It starts out looking like a normal mosquito bite but deep wounds soon develop and the flesh begins to be eaten away.

News.com.au previously reported on the worsening epidemic following reports it had spread into Melbourne suburbs including Bentleigh, Hampton and Cheltenham.

Victoria had 182 new cases in 2016, 275 in 2017 and 30 so far this year, medical researchers said in the study.

"Despite being recognised in Victoria since 1948, efforts to control the disease have been severely hampered because the environmental reservoir and mode of transmission to humans remain unknown".

The report declares six urgent questions need to be answered.

"As a community, we are facing a rapidly worsening epidemic of a severe disease without knowing how to prevent it", the report concludes.

"We therefore need an urgent response based on robust scientific knowledge acquired by a thorough and exhaustive examination of the environment, local fauna, human behaviour and characteristics, and the interactions between them".

"... It is only when we are armed with this critical knowledge that we can hope to halt the devastating impact of this disease".

"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".

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