Flesh-eating bug on the move in Victoria

While Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Bairnsdale or Buruli ulcer) is primarily found in isolated regions in Australia, infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Daniel O’Brien warns that people only need to spend a few hours in a region to become infected.

Infection is believed to be through environmental exposure to soil, swampy water, insects or faeces from animals such as possums.

Toxins made by the bacteria eat away at the skin, small blood vessels and subcutaneous fat, leaving an ulcer that must be treated with antibiotics and often surgery to remove necrotic tissue.

Skin loss can be kept to a minimum with early intervention however, and Professor O’Brien, deputy director of infectious diseases at Barwon Health, recommends asking patients with unusual and persistent skin lesions if they have been to one of the endemic areas.

These are typically pimple-type lesions that slowly enlarge and ulcerate and are