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What is it?

Buruli ulcer is a skin disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans. Other names for this disease include Bairnsdale ulcer, Daintree ulcer, Mossman ulcer, and Searl ulcer.  It is the third most common mycobacterial disease of people with a normal immune system, after tuberculosis and leprosy. (People with AIDS and a compromised immune system can get other Mycobacterial infections). The toxins made by the bacteria destroy skin cells, small blood vessels and the fat under the skin while also suppressing an effective immune response. If untreated, a painless ulcer develops which grows over time. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can minimise skin loss.

It is not known how humans become infected, although it is thought that mosquitoes may have a role in transmitting the infection in Australia. Buruli ulcer is not thought to be transmitted person-to-person. Buruli ulcer has been reported in 33 countries around the world. Affected areas include rural West Africa, Central Africa, New Guinea, Latin America and tropical regions of Asia. In Australia, Buruli ulcer commonly occurs in localised coastal areas of Victoria where it is becoming increasingly common. It also occurs in north Queensland.

Last Review Date: January 13, 2020

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