Doctors in Australia have called for increased research and funding to help address a 400% jump in cases of the flesh-eating bacteria Mycobacterium ulcerans also known as Buruli ulcer. The disease originates from Africa but cases in Australia have skyrocketed in 2018 as doctors say that they are becoming “frighteningly more common and also more severe”.
The disease is caused by a bacterial infection which produces toxins that break apart blood vessels, skin tissue, and fat to leave behind necrotic ulcers. The ulcers typically affect limbs but can also affect the face and torso. If left untreated the ulcers will grow in size and can lead to permanent disfigurement and even disability.
Epidemic of African flesh-eating 'Buruli ulcer' is spreading through Australia - and experts still have no idea what is causing a 400 per cent spike in victims. https://t.co/RIC7rvAnuO— #aupol news (@AupolNews) April 16, 2018
Doctors are currently unsure why or how the disease made its way to Australia, nor do they know why it is becoming frighteningly common. It is currently believed the disease is carried by dirt and soil, but they are not sure and some have voiced concerns it may be carried by mosquitos. Doctors are also confused about why the disease overwhelmingly affects children under 15, with very few cases in adults.
“No one understands what's happening and what's driving this epidemic,” said one doctor currently heading the call for increased funding and research. “We can offer clues but not definitive advice. It's a mystery.”
“The problem is, we don't have the time to sit around and pontificate about it - the epidemic has reached frightening proportions.”
#Health: never trust a mycobacterium. Buruli ulcer, a very nasty infection, caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, has started spreading in Australia, perhaps spread by mosquitoes and possums. https://t.co/CGulT9UPYX … cc. @thinkalot, @DrJudyStone, @LonnieRhea, @scopedbylarry— Tim Skellett (@Gurdur) April 16, 2018
Last year 13-year-old Ella Crofts contracted the disease and fought to help raise awareness with a change.org petition calling for greater funding. Ella underwent six months of treatment and three separate surgeries to clear out the infected necrotic flesh but still remains infected.
“The Bairnsdale Ulcer releases a toxin called Mycolactone. This toxin decreases immune system function and results in tissue death,” she wrote. “This infection comes from the same family as leprosy and tuberculosis. How the disease is spread is unknown. There is currently no prevention against it.”
“There have been over 150 cases of Mycobacterium Ulcerans in Victoria so far this year. Many of them are active, healthy kids like me, and most are on the Mornington Peninsula.
“Thousands of people worldwide suffer from this infectious disease, most of them are in third-world countries. If we, a wealthy country, could research this disease we might save countless people from disfigurement and disability.”