Buruli ulcer

Buruli ulcer

©Médecins Sans Frontières
Health education is crucial to achieving elimination

Buruli ulcer is caused by a germ, Mycobacterium ulcerans, that mainly affects the skin but which can also affect the bone. Although the causative organism belongs to the same family of organisms that cause leprosy and tuberculosis, it is unique because it produces a toxin – mycolactone – which destroys tissue. Buruli ulcer has been reported in over 30 countries, but only half of these countries regularly report data to WHO. Most people affected are children under 15 years of age who live in poor rural communities. The introduction of a combination of antibiotics in 2004 has greatly improved treatment outcomes for those who report early; however, late diagnosis can result in long and costly hospitalizations with significant morbidity and disability.

fact buffet


~6000Between 5000–6000 cases are reported annually from 15 of the 33 countries

Fact sheet

Disability risk

25%late reporting results in high percentage of disability

Plastic Surgery International's article


80%of cases detected early can be cured with a combination of antibiotics.

American Society for Microbiology's article

Buruli in the news!

19 November 2015 | Geneva
New research shows the diagnostic potential of fluorescent thin layer chromatography to detect mycolactone in Buruli ulcer

12 November 2015 | Geneva
Despite limitations, clinical practice and observational data are allowing acquisition of knowledge - crucial to informing international guidance for Buruli ulcer disease management

30 September 2015 | Geneva
Rapid diagnosis of Buruli ulcer now possible at district-level health facilities

05 March 2015 | Geneva
Management of Buruli ulcer–HIV coinfection – Technical update
Ref: WHO/HTM/NTD/IDM/2015.01

10 facts on Buruli ulcer
Read the 10 facts

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