Bacteriological and immunological studies towards effective control of "Mycobacterium ulcerans" disease (Buruli ulcer)

Yeboah-Manu, Dorothy Kyerewah. Bacteriological and immunological studies towards effective control of "Mycobacterium ulcerans" disease (Buruli ulcer). 2006, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Science.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_7700

Downloads: Statistics Overview


After tuberculosis and leprosy, Buruli ulcer (BU) which is caused by Mycobacterium
ulcerans, is the most common mycobacterial infection in immuno-competent humans.
Since the 1980s BU has gained significant public health importance in the tropics
especially in West Africa, including Ghana. The establishment of control measures is
hampered as a result of the scarcity of understanding of many features of the disease.
Priority areas for research defined by WHO include: understanding the mode of
transmission, development of simpler methods for early diagnosis, development of
effective antibiotic treatment, and the understanding of protective immune responses to
support vaccine development.
The availability of M. ulcerans isolates from endemic areas is necessary for detailed
transmission studies and the analysis of efficacy of antibiotics for the treatment of BU.
However, cultivation of M. ulcerans from clinical specimens is burdensome; reported
recovery rates are as low as 20%. We evaluated four different decontamination methods
and one non-decontamination procedure in combination with four egg-based media for
the primary isolation of M. ulcerans from tissue specimens excised from BU lesions.
Oxalic acid decontamination and culture on LJ medium supplemented with glycerol was
the most efficient procedure and achieved a recovery rate of 75.6%. The success of
cultivation depended also on a good sampling procedure. The use of the optimised
cultivation method has allowed the production of a large isolate collection.
For efficient case management and confirmation of epidemiological data, it is necessary
to reconfirm clinical diagnosis by laboratory procedures. We used culture together with
PCR and direct AFB staining to establish a system of reconfirming cases clinically
diagnosed at the Amasaman Health Centre, Ghana. All three methods showed a
comparable sensitivity and the laboratory analysis demonstrated a high accuracy of
clinical judgment by an experienced clinician.
Current recommendation by the WHO requires that BU patients be treated with a
combination of rifampicin and streptomycin for 8 weeks before surgical excision. In
many infectious diseases, the development of drug resistance has a serious impact on
patient management. It is therefore essential to monitor the drug susceptibility of M.
ulcerans. We analysed the susceptibility of 28 isolates to rifampicin, streptomycin
isoniazid and ethambutol and identified both streptomycin and rifampicin resistant strains
in Ghana. Findings from this study call for reconsideration of the current treatment
Currently, micro-epidemiological studies aiming to reveal transmission chains cannot be
done in BU. This is due to the low degree of genetic polymorphism in M. ulcerans
revealed by routinely used genetic fingerprinting procedures. We used VNTR typing
based on a newly identified polymorphic locus designated ST1 and the previously
described locus MIRU 1 to detect genetic diversity in isolates from Ghana. Analysis
revealed three different genotypes in isolates from Ghana, demonstrating for the first time
genetic diversity among M. ulcerans isolates in an African country.
Ex vivo ELISpot analysis of IFN-γ secreting cells was carried out by stimulating PBMCs
from BU patients with PPD, IPP and IRIV. Data from the study demonstrated for the first
time that M. ulcerans infection-associated systemic reduction in IFN-γ responses is not
confined to stimulation with live or dead mycobacteria and their products but extends to
other antigens. We also showed that the immune suppression reversed after surgical
treatment and that the suppression is not related to reduction in IL-12 secretions. This
indicates that the observed systemic immunosuppression was not the consequence of a
genetic defect in T cell function predisposing for BU but is rather related to the presence
of M. ulcerans bacteria.
In a longitudinal study, we compared recovery of immediate effector function of Vγ2Vδ2
T cells in surgically treated BU patients to that of TB patients under chemotherapy. At
the time of diagnosis, systemic production of IFN-γ after IPP stimulation was suppressed
in both disease states but reverses after treatment. Restoration of Vγ2Vδ2 reactivity was
slow such that an optimum response was not yet achieved by two months in both
populations. Our result demonstrates that immunosuppression in BU may not be caused
by the terpenoid toxin of M. ulcerans (mycolactone) alone.
Advisors:Weiss, Niklaus
Committee Members:Binka, Fred Newton and Daubenberger, Claudia
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Former Units within Swiss TPH > Cultural Epidemiology (Weiss)
UniBasel Contributors:Daubenberger, Claudia
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:7700
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:174
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:22 Jan 2018 15:50
Deposited On:13 Feb 2009 15:51

Repository Staff Only: item control page