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Under the microscope:Possum faeces

This month: Possum faeces

Erm, OK. Why are we talking about possum faeces?

Researchers have developed a surveillance system capable of detecting elevated risks of Buruli ulcer outbreaks in Victoria, Australia, thanks to possum faeces – a breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

What is Buruli ulcer?

It is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans. It mainly affects the skin but can also affect the bone. Cases are generally seen in the tropics, primarily in West Africa and Australia. Infection often leads to ulcers on the arms or legs, which can also destroy skin or soft tissue.

How common is it in Victoria, Australia?

Once considered an exotic bacterial infection, Buruli ulcer has become a major public health problem in Victoria, with the state now considered one of the most endemic areas for the disease globally.

Let’s get on to the possum faeces.

The Beating Buruli Ulcer in Victoria research project confirmed the role that Australian native possums play in human outbreaks of Buruli ulcer. The team compared data from possum faeces analysis to epidemiological data over time.

What did they find?

The researchers identified a significant spatial correlation between clusters of M. ulcerans-positive possum excreta and clusters of human Buruli ulcer cases.

What about this surveillance system they’ve created?

They developed a mathematical model that uses the GPS coordinates of where M. ulcerans bacteria have been detected in possum faeces and identifies the households that are most likely to be at risk.

Where can I read more about possum faeces?

Read their paper at

Image Credit | iStock


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