Research Funding To Unravel Buruli Ulcer Mystery

14:39' 30-04-2018
Victorian researchers have attracted a National Health and Medical Research Council partnership grant of $1.5 million, boosted by a State government contribution of $250,000, to investigate the mysterious tropical skin condition Buruli ulcer.

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    Photo: au.news.yahoo.com

    Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Barwon Health, Mornington Peninsula Shire, and public health experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, will look into how the infection is transferred to humans. It is not known how humans become infected, although it is thought that mosquitoes may have a role.

    The ulcer is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium ulcerans, a distant relative of organisms that cause tuberculosis and leprosy. M. ulcerans evades the body's immune system by producing a toxin called mycolactone, which destroys immune cells. The infection can then proceed unchecked and cause progressive tissue death.

    The Victorian Health website says it was first diagnosed in the Bairnsville area in the 1930s. It moved to the Mornington region in about 1990, and then to the Bellarine Peninsula in 1998. In late 2016 it was reported in the southeast Melbourne suburbs of Frankston, Bentleigh, Hampton and Cheltenham.

    The number of Victorians diagnosed with the ulcers has almost tripled in the past three years. There were a total of 275 cases notified in 2017. One victim, 13-year-old Tyabb teenager Ella Crofts, had three operations on her knee after contracting the bug in April. This moved her to start a petition on change.org, calling on the government to invest more in research into M. ulcerans.

    Cases occur all year round, with a peak between June and November. So far this year there have been 35 notifications of the ulcer, compared with 39 cases to the same time last year.

    The best defence is to wear clothing that reduces contact with biting insects, use insect repellent, and clean any cuts and abrasions.

    Somchai R

     

     

     

     

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Keywords: buruli ulcernational health and medical research councilvictorian researchers

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