What is Buruli ulcer?

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 2,700+ new cases were reported globally in 2018* 86% of cases in 2018 were in the African region


Further information



Source: WHO data 2018