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Secondary Buruli Ulcer Skin Lesions Emerging Several Months after Completion of Chemotherapy: Paradoxical Reaction or Evidence for Immune Protection?

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      BackgroundThe neglected tropical disease Buruli ulcer (BU) caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans is an infection of the subcutaneous tissue leading to chronic ulcerative skin lesions. Histopathological features are progressive tissue necrosis, extracellular clusters of acid fast bacilli (AFB) and poor inflammatory responses at the site of infection. After the recommended eight weeks standard treatment with rifampicin and streptomycin, a reversal of the local immunosuppression caused by the macrolide toxin mycolactone of M. ulcerans is observed.Methodology/Principal FindingsWe have conducted a detailed histopathological and immunohistochemical analysis of tissue specimens from two patients developing multiple new skin lesions 12 to 409 days after completion of antibiotic treatment. Lesions exhibited characteristic histopathological hallmarks of Buruli ulcer and AFB with degenerated appearance were found in several of them. However, other than in active disease, lesions contained massive leukocyte infiltrates including large B-cell clusters, as typically found in cured lesions.Conclusion/SignificanceOur histopathological findings demonstrate that the skin lesions emerging several months after completion of antibiotic treatment were associated with M. ulcerans infection. During antibiotic therapy of Buruli ulcer development of new skin lesions may be caused by immune response-mediated paradoxical reactions. These seem to be triggered by mycobacterial antigens and immunostimulators released from clinically unrecognized bacterial foci. However, in particular the lesions that appeared more than one year after completion of antibiotic treatment may have been associated with new infection foci resolved by immune responses primed by the successful treatment of the initial lesion.

      Author Summary

      Buruli ulcer (BU) is a chronic necrotizing skin disease presenting with extensive tissue destruction and local immunosuppression. Standard treatment recommended by the WHO includes 8 weeks of rifampicin/streptomycin and, if necessary, wound debridement and skin grafting. In some patients satellite lesions develop close to the primary lesion or occasionally also at distant sites during effective antibiotic treatment of the primary lesion. We performed a detailed analysis of tissue specimens from lesions that emerged in two BU patients from Benin 12 to 409 days after completion of chemotherapy. Histopathology revealed features of tissue destruction typically seen in BU and degenerated acid-fast bacilli. In addition, lesions contained organized immune infiltrates typically found in successfully treated BU lesions. Secondary lesions emerging many months after completion of chemotherapy may have been caused by immune response-mediated paradoxical reactions. However, the late onset may also indicate that they were associated with new infection foci spontaneously resolved by adaptive immune responses primed by antibiotic treatment of the primary lesions.

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      Most cited references 66

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      Mycolactone: a polyketide toxin from Mycobacterium ulcerans required for virulence.

      Mycobacterium ulcerans is the causative agent of Buruli ulcer, a severe human skin disease that occurs primarily in Africa and Australia. Infection with M. ulcerans results in persistent severe necrosis without an acute inflammatory response. The presence of histopathological changes distant from the site of infection suggested that pathogenesis might be toxin mediated. A polyketide-derived macrolide designated mycolactone was isolated that causes cytopathicity and cell cycle arrest in cultured L929 murine fibroblasts. Intradermal inoculation of purified toxin into guinea pigs produced a lesion similar to that of Buruli ulcer in humans. This toxin may represent one of a family of virulence factors associated with pathology in mycobacterial diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis.
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        Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome in patients starting antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

        In patients with HIV-1 infection who are starting combination antiretroviral therapy (ART), the incidence of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) is not well defined. We did a meta-analysis to establish the incidence and lethality of the syndrome in patients with a range of previously diagnosed opportunistic infections, and examined the relation between occurrence and the degree of immunodeficiency. Systematic review identified 54 cohort studies of 13 103 patients starting ART, of whom 1699 developed IRIS. We calculated pooled cumulative incidences with 95% credibility intervals (CrI) by Bayesian methods and did a random-effects metaregression to analyse the relation between CD4 cell count and incidence of IRIS. In patients with previously diagnosed AIDS-defining illnesses, IRIS developed in 37.7% (95% CrI 26.6-49.4) of those with cytomegalovirus retinitis, 19.5% (6.7-44.8) of those with cryptococcal meningitis, 15.7% (9.7-24.5) of those with tuberculosis, 16.7% (2.3-50.7) of those with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, and 6.4% (1.2-24.7) of those with Kaposi's sarcoma, and 12.2% (6.8-19.6) of those with herpes zoster. 16.1% (11.1-22.9) of unselected patients starting ART developed any type of IRIS. 4.5% (2.1-8.6) of patients with any type of IRIS died, 3.2% (0.7-9.2) of those with tuberculosis-associated IRIS died, and 20.8% (5.0-52.7) of those with cryptococcal meningitis died. Metaregression analyses showed that the risk of IRIS is associated with CD4 cell count at the start of ART, with a high risk in patients with fewer than 50 cells per microL. Occurrence of IRIS might therefore be reduced by initiation of ART before immunodeficiency becomes advanced. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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          Antimicrobial treatment for early, limited Mycobacterium ulcerans infection: a randomised controlled trial.

          Surgical debridement was the standard treatment for Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Buruli ulcer disease) until WHO issued provisional guidelines in 2004 recommending treatment with antimicrobial drugs (streptomycin and rifampicin) in addition to surgery. These recommendations were based on observational studies and a small pilot study with microbiological endpoints. We investigated the efficacy of two regimens of antimicrobial treatment in early-stage M ulcerans infection. In this parallel, open-label, randomised trial undertaken in two sites in Ghana, patients were eligible for enrolment if they were aged 5 years or older and had early (duration <6 months), limited (cross-sectional diameter <10 cm), M ulcerans infection confirmed by dry-reagent-based PCR. Eligible patients were randomly assigned to receive intramuscular streptomycin (15 mg/kg once daily) and oral rifampicin (10 mg/kg once daily) for 8 weeks (8-week streptomycin group; n=76) or streptomycin and rifampicin for 4 weeks followed by rifampicin and clarithromycin (7.5 mg/kg once daily), both orally, for 4 weeks (4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin group; n=75). Randomisation was done by computer-generated minimisation for study site and type of lesion (ulceration or no ulceration). The randomly assigned allocation was sent from a central site by cell-phone text message to the study coordinator. The primary endpoint was lesion healing at 1 year after the start of treatment without lesion recurrence or extensive surgical debridement. Analysis was by intention-to-treat. This trial is registered with, number NCT00321178. Four patients were lost to follow-up (8-week streptomycin, one; 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin, three). Since these four participants had healed lesions at their last assessment, they were included in the analysis for the primary endpoint. 73 (96%) participants in the 8-week streptomycin group and 68 (91%) in the 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin group had healed lesions at 1 year (odds ratio 2.49, 95% CI 0.66 to infinity; p=0.16, one-sided Fisher's exact test). No participants had lesion recurrence at 1 year. Three participants had vestibulotoxic events (8-week streptomycin, one; 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin, two). One participant developed an injection abscess and two participants developed an abscess close to the initial lesion, which was incised and drained (all three participants were in the 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin group). Antimycobacterial treatment for M ulcerans infection is effective in early, limited disease. 4 weeks of streptomycin and rifampicin followed by 4 weeks of rifampicin and clarithromycin has similar efficacy to 8 weeks of streptomycin and rifampicin; however, the number of injections of streptomycin can be reduced by switching to oral clarithromycin after 4 weeks. European Union (EU FP6 2003-INCO-Dev2-015476) and Buruli Ulcer Groningen Foundation. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland
            [2 ]University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
            [3 ]Centre de Diagnostic et de Traitement de l'Ulcère de Buruli, Pobè, Benin
            [4 ]Fondation Raoul Follereau, Cotonou, Benin
            University of Tennessee, United States of America
            Author notes

            Conceived and designed the experiments: AC GP MTR. Performed the experiments: AC MTR. Analyzed the data: MFA AC RCJ GP MTR. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: AA MFA AC HK. Wrote the paper: GP MTR.

            Role: Editor
            PLoS Negl Trop Dis
            PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            August 2011
            2 August 2011
            : 5
            : 8
            Ruf et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Pages: 9
            Research Article
            Immune Response
            Emerging Infectious Diseases
            Medical Microbiology
            Infectious Diseases
            Bacterial Diseases
            Buruli Ulcer
            Neglected Tropical Diseases
            Buruli Ulcer
            Skin Infections

            Infectious disease & Microbiology


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