Buruli ulcer is a chronic and debilitating disease that mainly affects the skin and sometimes the bone. It is caused by a bacterial infection, which belongs to the same group that causes tuberculosis and leprosy, however the mode of transmission to people remains unknown.

Buruli ulcer often starts as either a painless swelling (called a ‘nodule’), a large painless area of hardened tissue (‘plaque’) or as painless swelling of the legs, arms or face (‘oedema’).

Initially, the disease can develop with no pain and no fever. Without treatment the affected area will ulcerate within four weeks. Occasionally, bone is affected causing deformities.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for minimizing morbidity and preventing long-term disability.

33+ countries have reported Buruli ulcer since 2002 85% of cases in 2020 were in the African region
1400+ new cases were reported globally in 2020*
Source: WHO data 2020 (latest available)

Number of new reported cases

Number of new reported cases of buruli ulcer per year

Further information

WHO Factsheet