Buruli ulcer

Research priorities

Among the many potentially important areas of research on Buruli ulcer, six priority areas were selected by the research subgroup at the 5th WHO Advisory Group Meeting on Buruli Ulcer, held on 11–14 March 2002 in Geneva, Switzerland, as most likely to provide immediate direct benefit to Buruli ulcer patients in the medium term.

These are:

1. The mode of transmission

Over 50 years of experience have established the fact that Buruli ulcer is acquired through exposure to the environment, particularly through exposure to slow moving or stagnant bodies of water. The importance of understanding the mechanism of transmission from water to infected patients is obvious...

2. Development of methods for early diagnosis

Although Buruli ulcer can be confirmed in tertiary hospitals or research laboratories equipped with modern techniques including histopathology, culture and PCR , there are no good tools available for early diagnosis that can be implemented in the rural environment of developing countries where the burden of disease exists...

3. Drug treatment and new treatment modalities

Current accepted therapy for Buruli ulcer consists of surgery with or without skin grafting. Such treatment may not be available in some rural areas where the disease occurs; it is extremely invasive and expensive, requires hospitalization and is feared by many patients...

4. Vaccines

Data suggest the BCG may have some role in prevention of Buruli ulcer. In addition since Buruli ulcer appears to be a largely toxin-mediated disease, the development of an anti-toxin may be one of the approaches towards vaccine development and could also be therapeutically useful...

5. Cultural and socio-economic studies

In general, the aim of studies in this area is twofold: a) to assist in the design and evaluation of specific culturally appropriate and behaviourally feasible prevention and treatment interventions; b) to inform policymakers to incorporate findings of such studies in designing and changing policies aimed at managing the disease...

6. Incidence, prevalence and mapping of Buruli ulcer

How common is Buruli ulcer? Where does it occur? How important is Buruli ulcer compared with other diseases? Is Buruli ulcer moving to new, previously disease-free areas?...

Related links

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Laboratory confirmation
Guidance on sampling techniques for laboratory-confirmation of Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Buruli ulcer disease)