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Buruli Ulcer

Buruli Ulcer Research @ NMIMR:

From Field Through Basic Research to BU Control

Buruli ulcer is a skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Patients often have large skin ulcers and suffer deforming complications such as amputation of limbs, loss of eyes, and contractures. Currently it is not exactly known how the disease is acquired or prevented. The WHO recommended strategy for BU control is by detecting the disease in the early stages by PCR and treatment with antibiotics.

However, patients do not have access to PCR diagnosis in the health care center or district hospitals where they report and moreover the early stages of the disease are often overlooked as minor skin problems and consequently patients do not seek early treatment.

The NMIMR work closely with the National Buruli ulcer Control Programme (NBUCP) and NGOs in detecting and treating patients as well as educating endemic communities about the disease especially on the importance of seeking early treatment. The NMIMR receives samples from all over the country for PCR confirmation and through this, over 70% of suspected cases are confirmed by PCR prior to antibiotic treatment enabling the NBUCP meet this important requirement of the WHO for BU control.

The Institute is also involved in research to (i) identify sources of the Mycobacterium ulcerans in the environment and to understand how it is transmitted within communities. (ii) develop rapid test for early diagnosis of the disease (iii) assess risk factors that predispose people to the disease and (iv) identify sociocultural and economic factors that prevents patients from seeking medical treatment. Our interventions have resulted in reduction of cases in several endemic areas and together with our encouraging research output we are optimistic of contributing towards improving the understanding and finding more effective means of controlling Buruli ulcer disease.