Buruli ulcer is the third most common mycobacterial disease after Tuberculosis and Leprosy. It is a chronic, necrotizing disease of the skin and soft tissues that is reported in over thirty tropical and subtropical countries, and constitutes a major public health concern in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 1,000 cases of Buruli ulcers are reported annually in Ghana (http://www.who.int/buruli). If not diagnosed or treated appropriately, they can result in irreversible deformity, functional disability and life-threatening secondary infections. The elimination of M. ulcerans from infected wounds requires systemic antibiotics daily for eight weeks. Although efficient, this treatment is not easily deliverable in field conditions, and paradoxical reactions often develop during antibiotic therapy that slow down the healing process.
Simple and field-compatible diagnostic tests are urgently needed for this disease to be diagnosed early and treated locally. Mycolactone being uniquely produced by M. ulcerans and released in the peripheral circulation of patients at early stages of the disease, it represents an attractive target for diagnostic tests. One of our objectives is to develop novel, mycolactone-based tools for the early diagnosis and monitoring of Buruli ulcer disease. With the team of Richard O. Phillips (KNUST, Ghana), we are also committed to identifying proteomic and metabolomic signatures of this infection in the serum of patients.