Buruli ulcer medical therapy

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This page is about clinical aspects of the disease.  For microbiologic aspects of the causative organism(s), see Mycobacterium ulcerans.

Buruli ulcer Microchapters


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Historical Perspective



Differentiating Buruli ulcer from other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

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Case #1

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Antibiotics currently play little part in the treatment of Buruli ulcer. Recommended drugs include rifampin, streptomycin and dapsone.

Medical Therapy

Acute Pharmacotherapy

The WHO currently recommend rifampicin and streptomycin for eight weeks in the hope of reducing the need for surgery. The combination of rifampicin and clarithromycin has been used for many years in Australia. Rifampicin must never be used alone because the bacterium quickly becomes resistant[1].

There are a number of experimental treatments currently being investigated:

  • Sitafloxacin and rifampicin is a synergistic combination that only been trialled in mice.
  • Rifalazil is a rifamycin antibiotic that appears to be more potent than rifampicin that has only been trialled in mice.
  • Epiroprim and dapsone are synergistic when used in combination (in vitro studies only at present)
  • Diarylquinoline shows high potency in vitro

In a small series of eight patients, local heat at 40°C led to complete healing without surgery (except the initial removal of dead tissue).[2]

Antimicrobial Regimen

  • 1. Preulcerative lesions
  • Excision and primary closure, Rifampin monotherapy, or heat therapy
  • 2. Established ulcers
  • Most antimycobacterial agents are ineffective for the treatment of the ulcer; Surgical debridement combined with skin grafting is the usual treatment of choice
  • 3. Control complications of the ulcer


  1. Sizaire V, Nackers F, Comte E, Portaels F (2006). "Mycobacterium ulcerans infection: control, diagnosis, and treatment". Lancet Infect Dis. 6 (5): 288&ndash, 296. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(06)70464-9. PMID 16631549.
  2. Meyers WM, Shelly WM, Connor DH (1974). "Heat treatment of Mycobacterium ulcerans infections without surgical excision". Am J Trop Med Hyg. 23: 924&ndash, 29.
  3. Griffith, David E.; Aksamit, Timothy; Brown-Elliott, Barbara A.; Catanzaro, Antonino; Daley, Charles; Gordin, Fred; Holland, Steven M.; Horsburgh, Robert; Huitt, Gwen; Iademarco, Michael F.; Iseman, Michael; Olivier, Kenneth; Ruoss, Stephen; von Reyn, C. Fordham; Wallace, Richard J.; Winthrop, Kevin; ATS Mycobacterial Diseases Subcommittee; American Thoracic Society; Infectious Disease Society of America (2007-02-15). "An official ATS/IDSA statement: diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of nontuberculous mycobacterial diseases". American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 175 (4): 367–416. doi:10.1164/rccm.200604-571ST. ISSN 1073-449X. PMID 17277290.