Australia Facing 'Worsening Epidemic' Of Flesh-Eating Ulcer

Australia Facing 'Worsening Epidemic' Of Flesh-Eating Ulcer

Doctors in Australia have called for urgent research into why a flesh-eating ulcer has become a "worsening epidemic" in the state of Victoria.

"In 2016, there were 182 new cases - the highest ever reported by 72 per cent". In 2017, up to mid-November, there were a further 236 cases.

The disease is believed to spread through mosquitoes, or through the faeces of possums that have been bitten by mosquitoes.

There have been no reported cases in New South Wales, South Australia or Tasmania; the three states closest to Victoria. For this reason, it's not clear why the number of cases in Australia is increasing.

"One possibility is maybe there's some resistance to the antibiotics that they are using", Garchitorena said. "It is hard to prevent a disease when it is not known how infection is acquired", the report said. It's also often referred to as the Buruli ulcer or the Daintree ulcer because it occurs in parts of north Queensland.

There were 275 new infections in the province of Victoria last year - a new record and a 51 per cent increase over the year before. It has been reported in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, the Western Pacific, and South America, according to the World Health Organization.

Buruli ulcer is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans.

Researchers also know the organism behind it: Mycobacterium ulcerans, which is from the same family of bacteria that causes leprosy and tuberculosis. "It starts generally with a small nodule, but over time, it opens up and creates an ulcer".

While the disease is curable with antibiotics in most cases, the drugs needed are expensive.

It was unclear why the ulcer, typically found in tropical areas, had emerged in the temperate climate of Victoria, he said. If not treated properly, it can cause irreversible deformity or long-term functional disability. Current antibiotic treatments prevent surgery in only 40% of patients, said Dr. Zlatko Kopecki, vice president of the Australasian Wound and Tissue Repair Society. Different combinations of antibiotics are given to the patient to have it for 8 weeks.

"In Australia, it tends to infect people over 50, but younger people can be affected, too".

"It's a pretty frightening explosion in case numbers", Dr O'Brien, an associate professor from the University of Melbourne, said. However, one expert hypothesis is that the infection is spread by mosquitoes and possums.

"Lesions most commonly occur on exposed body areas, suggesting that bites, environmental contamination or trauma may play a role in infection, and that clothing may protect against disease".

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