Buruli ulcer

Mycobacterium Ulcerans Infection (Buruli ulcer): Towards Improving Control, Diagnosis and Therapy

After tuberculosis and leprosy, Buruli ulcer (BU), caused by M. ulcerans, is the third most common mycobacterial disease, and Western Africa is the world region most affected by this chronic necrotising disease of the skin and the subcutaneous tissue. M. ulcerans is unique among mycobacterial pathogens in that it is mainly extracellular and produces a plasmid-encoded toxin with a polyketide-derived macrolide structure, named mycolactone.

Symptoms and Treatment

Mycolactone is believed to play a central role in determining the extracellular localization of the bacteria and modulation of immunological responses to M. ulcerans. Clinical lesions usually start as painless nodules and if left untreated lead to massive destruction of skin and sometimes bone. While surgery has traditionally been the only recommended treatment for BU, in 2004 WHO published provisional guidelines recommending treatment with a combination of rifampicin and streptomycin for 8 weeks.

Our research

We developed a brad research portfolio comprising clinical, field and laboratory studies.

The goals of our research are to

  • improve understanding of the pathogenesis, immunology and transmission of Buruli ulcer,
  • develop methods for early diagnosis, and
  • investigate prospects for improving therapy and vaccine development.

Brunetti G et al. Nanotechnological immunoassay for rapid label-free analysis of candidate malaria vaccines. Nanoscale. 2021;13(4):2338-2349. DOI: 10.1039/D0NR08083G

Day C.J, Röltgen K, Pluschke G, Jennings M.P. The cell surface protein MUL_3720 confers binding of the skin pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans to sulfated glycans and keratin. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021;15(2):e0009136. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009136

Borel N et al. wIRA: hyperthermia as a treatment option for intracellular bacteria, with special focus on Chlamydiae and Mycobacteria. Int J Hyperthermia. 2020;37:373-383. DOI: 10.1080/02656736.2020.1751312

Chaguza C et al. Bacterial genome-wide association study of hyper-virulent pneumococcal serotype 1 identifies genetic variation associated with neurotropism. Commun Biol. 2020;3:559. DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-01290-9

Keller D et al. Performance of a real-time PCR approach for diagnosing Schistosoma haematobium infections of different intensity in urine samples from Zanzibar. Infect Dis Poverty. 2020;9:128. DOI: 10.1186/s40249-020-00726-y