Bad to the Bone: Flesh Eating Ulcer Causes Pain and Worry for Researchers
What begins as a red spot on skin in six months may turn into a vicious open wound and researchers in Australia are spending millions of dollars to find out why.
An infection known as the Buruli Ulcer has been identified as the cause debilitating skin and bone sore on hundreds of people in certain areas of the world.
Photo — Centers for Disease Control
Dr. Daniel O'Brien described it as a "flesh-eating infection. It actually starts to eat away at the skin and the tissue underneath and in some circumstances where it's very aggressive it can very rapidly take over a whole arm or a part of a leg."
The good news is it is not the most aggressive, according to an expert in one published report. The bad news is that there is no known method of transmission or prevention, according to the World Health Organization.
Another researcher said it could originate in possum feces and be spread to humans by mosquitoes.
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.