There Is Currently A Mysterious Outbreak Of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Buruli Ulcer In Australia

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There’s a place in Australia where there’s suddenly a whole bunch of cases of flesh-eating bacteria.

What kind of bacteria is this? Can something like that happen here in the United States?

Buruli ulcer,Mycobacterium ulcerans, A flesh-eating bacterium is spreading in Australia
Buruli ulcer colony: A flesh-eating bacterium is spreading in Australia. Picture: AMS Science

There is currently an outbreak of a tropical disease called Buruli ulcer, which has been centered along a portion of Australia’s southern coast, more precisely in the serene beachside suburbs of Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula.

This map shows the different areas with Buruli ulcer in Australia:

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The highest risk area in Victoria is currently concentrated in the Mornington Peninsula in the state’s south, while adjacent areas Frankston and Seaford, and the Bellarine Peninsula in the south-west are of moderate risk. East Gippsland in the eastern part of the state is deemed an area of low but material risk, as are the South Eastern Bayside suburbs. Map: Health.vic.gov.au

Australia has seen occasional cases of the disease since the 1930s. However, since 2017, more than 100 people have been infected with this type of flesh-eating bacteria that is rarely seen in this part of the world.

And Victoria’s recent outbreak has mystified researchers over the past few years, particularly regarding its source and how the disease is being spread.

What is Buruli Ulcer?

The little-known illness is caused by a pathogen known as a mycobacterium (Mycobacterium ulcerans).

It’s named for Buruli county in Uganda, which is where scientists first identified the collection of symptoms as a specific condition.

Once the bacterium enters the skin, it releases a unique toxin known as mycolactone and begins breaking down and consuming flesh, leaving painful and debilitating wounds that can be disfiguring if left untreated.

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Buruli ulcer can cause large, destructive lesions of skin, soft tissue and even bone. Picture: RACGP.org.au

The bacterium not only damages the tissues it inhabits, but also is able to prevent the immune system from mounting a defense.

That’s the same genus of microorganisms that cause tuberculosis and leprosy, among other illnesses.

Buruli Ulcer symptoms

Buruli ulcer usually begins quietly, often with a small and painless raised lesion, a patch of thickened skin or an area of swelling just below the skin.

Within the next four or five weeks, the organisms create a wound that, if left untreated, will grow in size.

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Progressive healing of a Buruli ulcer patient who was given treatment. Picture: Biomedcentral

Although damage is usually limited to the skin and the tissues just below the skin, in some cases the bone can be affected, which can lead to deformities.

About half of cases of Buruli ulcer are found on the lower limbs, about one-third appear on the arms and the rest develop in other regions of the body. How the disease is transmitted is not yet known.

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Development of Buruli ulcer on the hand of a person from Peru. A) Swollen patch on the middle finger B) about 4 weeks later, ulcers form on the middle finger C) 5.5 weeks after first seen, a large ulcer covers the finger D) cured lesion 5 months after first seen, 1 month after autologous skin graft. Picture: Wikipedia

In its early stages, the condition is occasionally mistaken for boils, fatty tumors known as lipomas or a fungal infection. The disease is treated with a combination of several different antibiotics and wound care.

Several of the people in Australia who became infected with the mycobacterium initially thought the resulting nodules were insect bites.

Buruli ulcer outbreak in Australia

Buruli ulcers have been found extensively in the hotspot area’s ringtail possum population, with traces of the bacteria found in their droppings.

However, it is not yet certain how the disease is transferred to humans. Professor Stinear’s theory is that the pathogen can be transmitted through mosquito bites, although a definitive link is yet to be established.

While reported cases of Australian Buruli ulcers have declined in 2020, the Buruli ulcer remains a global health issue, with high case numbers in West and Central African countries.

Buruli ulcer in the US

Buruli ulcer has been identified in 33 different countries, but historically has been most common in certain tropical regions of west and central Africa.

As for whether or not the disease can become a problem in the U.S., it’s unlikely. Only a few cases have been reported here over the years, and each was linked to travel in a region where the organism that causes the disease is regularly found.

More mysterious flesh-eating bacteria outbreak on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle.[Biomedical Sciences, Santa Maria Times, The Atlantic]

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9 COMMENTS

  1. This article is suspect. The first picture shows the decavitation after the eschar has fallen out from a Black Salve treatment for cancer.. The beige substance is cancer that the treatment did not remove and this picture is fraudulently presented as some other disease.
    Cancer is a parasite and fungal infection and mycobacterium means fungus-bacteria.

  2. Medical Martial Law and then before even test results comes Doctors put patients in to ventilators. This done by killing us.I want the nurse went secret cameras talk to strange sounds. I will do my best to see how we can do it. May be Stevequayle can do it.

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