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

Hall B.S et al. Inhibition of the SEC61 translocon by mycolactone induces a protective autophagic response controlled by EIF2S1-dependent translation that does not require ULK1 activity. Autophagy. 2021(in press). DOI: 10.1080/15548627.2021.1961067

Warryn L, Dangy J.P, Gersbach P, Gehringer M, Altmann K.H, Pluschke G. An antigen capture assay for the detection of mycolactone, the polyketide toxin of Mycobacterium ulcerans. J Immunol. 2021(in press). DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.2001232

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