Dr. Rachel Simmonds from the University of Surrey and colleagues have discovered the secret of the skin-eating disease Buruli ulcer that promises to be a giant step to a cure. The disease is active in poor rural communities in West Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia but rare occurrences have been seen in the United States and Europe.
The germ that causes Buruli ulcer and the resultant loss of skin produces a blood clot in the infected person’s skin. The researchers found great similarities between the blood clots caused by Buruli ulcer and the blood clots that develop in deep vein thrombosis. The discovery will allow the use of approved anticoagulants to treat the disease. The addition of anticoagulants to the present antibiotic treatment is expected to shorten the healing process.
The majority of people that are infected by the Buruli ulcer germ acquire the disease from the water they bathe in. Most of the people that get the disease cannot afford a long hospital stay that is at present necessary to cure the disease and prevent permanent disfigurement and disability. About 5,000 people acquire Buruli ulcer each year.
The ulcers caused by the disease are painless. The people that have the disease often wait too long to seek treatment because they feel no pain. Many people that have Buruli ulcer seek help from traditional healers out of fear, ignorance, and the high cost of medical care. The newly discovered cause can make curing the disease portable to the patient.