I must admit I have a perverse fascination for those horrible flesh-eating tropical diseases, the kind that cause a shudder of revulsion when viewed. I've already talked about the horror of Leishmaniasis and Leprosy; now it's time to add Buruli Ulcer to the chamber of bacterial horrors. Buruli Ulcer is a devastating disease caused by a type of bacterium (called a Mycobacterium) that is related to the pathogens that cause leprosy and tuberculosis. Talk about a dangerous family! It's also one of the rising pathogens on the planet, with an alarming number of new cases popping up in Africa, especially among women and children. The Ivory Coast, Benin, and Ghana now record thousands of cases each year.

Buruli Ulcer starts as a painless, though sometimes itchy, swelling in the skin. From this marble-like nodule, concealed destruction spreads for days or weeks. A toxin secreted by the proliferating microbe ravages the subcutaneous fat layer, destroying so much tissue that the skin above finally dies and sloughs away. A lesion may spread over the full chest or back or an entire limb. Occasionally, an infection chews its way to, and even through, bone. As you can see from the images I've collected, the result of this damage can be truly frightening to behold.


Even more frightening is the fact that the disease has so far proven resistant to drug treatments, so that the only known method of combating the bacterium is excision of the infected flesh and bone, with amputations and the removal of eyes or breasts being the frequent result. Skin grafts are then used to replace the removed skin. Sigh... I think I'd rather just take a pill!

One last mysterious fact about the disease is that scientists have yet to prove the mode of transmission, although it appears that stagnant water is a factor. It's believed that the bacterium may reside in the water and enter the body through cuts in the skin when the infected individual touches the infected water. Or it may be that the bite of water insects provides the mode of entry into the body. Hmmmmm... I wonder if anyone on Survivor will acquire it mucking about in that horrid stagnant water they call a drinking hole? It would certainly enliven the show a bit to have someone's face or arm rotting away week by week, don't you think?

That's Entertainment!

UPDATE - 05/22/02

I received an interesting e-mail recently detailing a new method of treatment for Buruli Ulcer. The website referenced has some extraordinarily ugly images as well, if you're interested:


I have seen your web page Malady of the Month "Buruli Ulcer" at: http://asylumeclectica.com/asylum/malady/archives/buruli.htm

You may be interested to know that a treatment using clay has been acknowledged at WHO's meeting in Geneva last March 2002.

We invite you to visit our website www.BuruliBusters.com wherin you will find all the details concerning the impressives results obtained with clay treatment.

There are +2500 photographs that document the results.

The down-side is that the medical world is slow to react, and many will not be able to benefit of this very effective and cheap treatment for quite some time. Read-on the full story on our website


Thierry, Line et Gerard Brunet de Courssou

The information above was mercilessly swiped from Emedicine - and various other websites which I seem to have misplaced. (To the webmasters: My deepest apologies! Please e-mail me if you know the sources.)

Special thanks to Lee for the suggestion!


Death Threats...