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Volume 26, Number 3—March 2020
Etymologia

Etymologia: Buruli Ulcer

Ronnie HenryComments to Author 

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Buruli ulcer [booʹrǝ-le ulʹsǝr]

Figure

Thumbnail of Capt Grant leaving Karague, carried on a wicker stretcher. Note his bent right leg. (from the book Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile, by John Hanning Speke, 1863, p.401). Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:James_Augustus_Grant.jpg

Figure. Captain Grant leaving Karague, carried on a wicker stretcher. Note his bent right leg. (From Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile, by John Hanning Speke, 1863, p....

Named for Buruli County (now Nakasongola District), Uganda, where large numbers of cases were reported in the 1960s, Buruli ulcer (from the Latin ulcus, “sore”) is a cutaneous infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans. This bacterium produces a unique toxin (mycolactone), which causes rapid and extensive skin ulceration that is relatively painless. Buruli ulcer was first described by Sir Albert Cook in 1897. However, in his book A Walk Across Africa, describing his participation in the 1860 expedition to find the source of the Nile River, Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant might have earlier described Buruli ulcer (Figure):

“The right leg, from above the knee, became deformed with inflammation, and remained for a month in this unaccountable state, giving intense pain, which was relieved temporarily by a deep incision and copious discharge. For three months, fresh abscesses formed, and other incisions were made; my strength was prostrated; the knee stiff and alarmingly bent, and walking was impracticable.”

Australian physician Peter MacCallum identified the causative organism in 1948. More than 33 countries in Africa, Central and South America, and the Western Pacific report cases of Buruli ulcer. Transmission is not well understood, which hampers the ability to prevent infection. Buruli ulcer is considered a public health problem in West Africa, and rates are also high in Victoria, Australia.

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References

  1. Grant  JA. A walk across Africa: or, domestic scenes from my Nile journal. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons; 1864.
  2. MacCALLUM  P, Tolhurst  JC, Buckle  G, Sissons  HA. A new mycobacterial infection in man. J Pathol Bacteriol. 1948;60:93122. DOIPubMed
  3. World Health Organization. Treatment of Mycobacterium ulcerans disease (Buruli ulcer): guidance for health care workers, 2012 [cited 2020 Jan 10]. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77771/9789241503402_eng.pdf
  4. Yotsu  RR, Suzuki  K, Simmonds  RE, Bedimo  R, Ablordey  A, Yeboah-Manu  D, et al. Buruli ulcer: a review of current knowledge. Curr Trop Med Rep. 2018;5:24756. DOIPubMed

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Figure

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2603.et2603

Original Publication Date: 2/4/2020

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Table of Contents – Volume 26, Number 3—March 2020

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Ronnie Henry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Mailstop V18-2, Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA

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Page created: February 19, 2020
Page updated: February 19, 2020
Page reviewed: February 19, 2020
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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