Buruli ulcer disease (BU), due to the bacteria Mycobacterium ulcerans, represents an important and emerging public health problem, especially in many African countries. Few elements are known nowadays about the routes of transmission of this environmental bacterium to the human population.
In this study, we have investigated the relationships between the incidence of BU in Côte d'Ivoire, western Africa, and a group of environmental variables. These environmental variables concern vegetation, crops (rice and banana), dams, and lakes. Using a geographical information system and multivariate analyses, we show a link between cases of BU and different environmental factors for the first time on a country-wide scale. As a result, irrigated rice field cultures areas, and, to a lesser extent, banana fields as well as areas in the vicinity of dams used for irrigation and aquaculture purposes, represent high-risk zones for the human population to contract BU in Côte d'Ivoire. This is much more relevant in the central part of the country.
As already suspected by several case-control studies in different African countries, we strengthen in this work the identification of high-risk areas of BU on a national spatial scale. This first study should now be followed by many others in other countries and at a multi-year temporal scale. This goal implies a strong improvement in data collection and sharing in order to achieve to a global picture of the environmental conditions that drive BU emergence and persistence in human populations.
Buruli ulcer (BU) is one of the most neglected but treatable tropical diseases. The causative organism, Mycobacterium ulcerans, is from the family of bacteria that causes tuberculosis and leprosy. This severe skin disease leads to long-term functional disability if not treated. BU has been reported in over 30 countries mainly with tropical and subtropical climates, but Côte d'Ivoire is one of the most affected countries. M. ulcerans is an environmental bacterium and its mode of transmission to humans is still unclear, such that the disease is often referred to as the “mysterious disease” or the “new leprosy”. Here, we explored the relationship between environmental and socioeconomic factors and BU cases on a nationwide scale. We found that irrigated rice field cultures areas, and, to a lesser extent, banana fields as well as areas in the vicinity of dams used for irrigation and aquaculture purposes, represent high risk zones for the human population to contract BU in Côte d'Ivoire. This work identifies high-risk areas for BU in Côte d'Ivoire and deserves to be extended to different countries. We need now to obtain a global vision and understanding of the route of transmission of M. ulcerans to humans in order to better implement control strategies.