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Environmental risk factors associated with the presence of Mycobacterium ulcerans in Victoria, Australia
journal contributionposted on 2023-02-10, 02:48 authored by KR Blasdell, B McNamara, DP O’Brien, M Tachedjian, V Boyd, M Dunn, PT Mee, S Clayton, J Gaburro, I Smith, KB Gibney, EL Tay, EC Hobbs, N Waidyatillake, SE Lynch, TP Stinear, Eugene AthanEugene Athan
In recent years reported cases of Buruli ulcer, caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, have increased substantially in Victoria, Australia, with the epidemic also expanding geographically. To develop an understanding of how M. ulcerans circulates in the environment and transmits to humans we analyzed environmental samples collected from 115 properties of recent Buruli ulcer cases and from 115 postcode-matched control properties, for the presence of M. ulcerans. Environmental factors associated with increased odds of M. ulcerans presence at a property included certain native plant species and native vegetation in general, more alkaline soil, lower altitude, the presence of common ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) and overhead powerlines. However, only overhead powerlines and the absence of the native plant Melaleuca lanceolata were associated with Buruli ulcer case properties. Samples positive for M. ulcerans were more likely to be found at case properties and were associated with detections of M. ulcerans in ringtail possum feces, supporting the hypothesis that M. ulcerans is zoonotic, with ringtail possums the strongest reservoir host candidate. However, the disparity in environmental risk factors associated with M. ulcerans positive properties versus case properties indicates the involvement of human behavior or the influence of other environmental factors in disease acquisition that requires further study.