Benin: Cases of Buruli-ulcer multiply

No known medication seems to cure this disease which is caused by the development of a bacteria in the cutaneous tissue. It appears that many of those who suffer from it in West Africa and some parts of Asia live close to stagnant water. Until now, amputations and large skin excisions have been generally the only solutions offered to patients. Most of the cases of BU are found in the Lalo region of Mono. In 1997, MSF set up a treatment centre in Lalo town. Skin grafts are carried out by surgeons who treat patients as if they were suffering from severe buns. Patients are treated here over a period of one to eight months during which time they must be hospitalised. Surgical interventions began in November 1998. About 20 to 30 patients/months are treated. The treatment is effective if BU is diagnosed in the early stages. MSF sees the need to train Beninese doctors to treat this emerging disease. In 1998, they financed a one-month training course for a Beninese doctor in the burns unit of Brussels' Nederoverheembeek Hospital. MSF is also training nurses and other local health care personnel in the early diagnosis of BU and urging them to refer patients immediately to the MSF centre. MSF collaborates on BU research with the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium. The current concern is to find effective medication to treat BU.