Sur­geon brings ul­cer to world

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - An­gelique Pat­ter­son

SUR­GEON Dr Christina St­ef­fen is bring­ing the Dain­tree Ul­cer to the world stage af­ter be­ing in­vited to present data at the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Bu­ruli Ul­cer an­nual meet­ing.

Based at the Cairns Base Hospi­tal and a res­i­dent Dain­tree Ul­cer ex­pert, Dr St­ef­fen said she is hon­oured to present her find­ings and dis­cuss ques­tions raised dur­ing the out­break in 2011.

There were 65 cases of the Dain­tree Ul­cer in 2011 and Dr St­ef­fen op­er­ated on 42 of them, with an­other 25 cases re­ported last year.

My­cobac­terium ul­cer­ans is re­spon­si­ble for the Dain­tree Ul­cer and is found all over the world un­der dif­fer­ent names.

‘‘WHO listed the disease as one of the most com­mon my­cobac­te­rial disease af­ter le­prosy and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis in the world, it’s a ma­jor pub­lic health prob­lem par­tic­u­larly in west African coun­tries,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s a health prob­lem for us too but we have fewer cases be­cause of the lower pop­u­la­tion and we are bet­ter equipped to deal with them.’’

There has been ad­vances in the treat­ment of Dain­tree Ul­cers since Dr St­ef­fen’s first en­counter in the ’90s, with doc­tors now us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of an­tibi­otics and surgery to re­move them.

What is still un­known is the cause of the ul­cer.

‘‘ Our com­mu­ni­ties are pretty well in­formed and quite aware of the prob­lem so they tend to present ear­lier and that helps with the out­comes and re­search,’’ Dr St­ef­fen said.

‘‘For ex­am­ple one per­son who said they were bit­ten by a march fly man­aged to get sam­ples to send down to Mel­bourne to see if they were car­ry­ing it and the first re­sults were neg­a­tive but with the sec­ond re­sults a cou­ple were pos­i­tive.’’

This new in­for­ma­tion fol­lows other re­ports of get­ting the ul­cer af­ter a tic or mos­quito bite and fall­ing off a play­ground.

‘‘There are two schools of thought, that it’s just in the en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple some­how pick it up and the other school of thought which I lean to­wards is the or­gan­ism it­self has evolved and ge­netic ma­te­ri­als al­low it to live freely in the dirt,’’ she said.

‘‘So it’s adapted it­self and can live in a liv­ing or­gan­ism but can’t sur­vive out­side of it, so logic would say, ‘How can you pick it up from the dirt if it’s un­able to sur­vive there’?

‘‘That is the $6 mil­lion ques­tion.’’

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