Australian doctors calls flesh-eating ulcer 'a mystery'

Buruli ulcers are on the rise in Victoria with 30 reported cases so far in 2018

Buruli ulcers are on the rise in Victoria with 30 reported cases so far in 2018

"Our hypothesis is really that this is a disease of possums", said Paul Johnson, a Victoria-based Buruli ulcer expert, The Guardian reported.

The Australian doctors want help to understand why the number of infections is increasing and why infections are growing more severe.

The environmental reservoir of the disease and how it spreads between humans is unknown.

Though some deaths from the disease have been reported, most cases are not life-threatening, according to Garchitorena.

"It is hard to prevent a disease when it is not known how infection is acquired", lead author and associate professor Daniel O'Brien, an infectious diseases consultant, wrote.

Researchers are appealing for government funding so they can figure out how to contain the bacteria, which causes a disease called Buruli ulcer. The condition is most common in regions with tropical, subtropical and temperate climates.

In 2017, 2206 cases were reported globally, compared to 1920 cases in 2016, with Australia and Nigeria reporting the most cases. People with the symptoms should see a doctor and get antibiotics, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Different combinations of antibiotics are given to the patient to have it for 8 weeks. "Novel antibiotics or targeted antitoxin treatments are required as wound infection is a serious problem for thousands of patients with chronic wounds", he said previous year.

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

The report includes graphic images of the ulcer eating away at the flesh of an 11-year-old boy from the Mornington Peninsula, the Victorian bayside region where confirmed infections are up 400 per cent in the last four years.

The cause of the spike in Australia remains a mystery, the researchers state, particularly in the state of Victoria, home to one of the country's biggest cities, Melbourne. However, one expert hypothesis is that the infection is spread by mosquitoes and possums.

However, the study notes that the risk of infection "appears to be seasonal, with an increased risk in the warmer months".

The ulcer can be treated with antibiotics, but patients end up paying about $14,000 each, because the drugs are not covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and many sufferers also require plastic surgery.

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