Doctors in Australia have called for urgent research into why a flesh-eating ulcer has become a “worsening epidemic” in the state of Victoria.
Local cases of Buruli ulcer, a skin disease most commonly found in Africa, have surged by 400% in the last four years, experts say.
Infections have also become more severe and spread to new areas. Doctors do not know how to prevent the disease, which is caused by bacteria that breaks down tissue.
A record 275 new infections were recorded the state last year, marking a 51% increase on 2016. Infectious diseases expert Dr Daniel O’Brien said cases of the Buruli ulcer, or Mycobacteriumulcerans disease, had become “frighteningly more common and also more severe” in the region.
It was unclear why the ulcer, typically found in tropical areas, had emerged in the temperate climate of Victoria, he said.
Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, doctors have called for government funding to research the disease and its causes. “No one understands what’s happening and what’s driving this epidemic,” Dr O’Brien, a co-author, told the BBC. “We can offer clues but not definitive advice. It’s a mystery.”