A New Network Takes on the Flesh-Eating Disease Buruli Ulcer 


At only seven years old, Emmanuel is the eldest of three children. His father, Gilles, is a cocoa farmer in rural Côte d’Ivoire.

One day, Gilles noticed a small bump on Emmanuel’s leg. At first he didn’t know what it was, but when the bump didn’t go away, Gilles realized that it was the flesh-eating disease, Buruli ulcer. 

Unfortunately, diagnosing Buruli ulcer can be difficult. To confirm a case, special labs have to run a series of tests; it can take weeks or months before a patient knows the results of their test. Those weeks can have lifelong consequences for children like Emmanuel.  Undiagnosed, Buruli ulcer can lead to terrible scarring and disabilities. Also, not all labs use the same testing methods, so a lab might misdiagnose a person who desperately needs treatment. All this can make it difficult for people like Emmanuel to access the cure for Buruli ulcer when they need it.

That is why, with your support, we are leading the way to create a network of laboratories in West Africa that cooperate with each other, working together to ensure fast, accurate diagnosis for hundreds of children like Emmanuel. In order to better serve people suffering from this terrible disease, we are thinking outside the box: finding ways to reach beyond individual cases and make innovative changes to whole health systems. 

Supported by the World Health Organization, American Leprosy Missions, and the Pasteur Center of Cameroon, this group of 12 labs is the largest research lab network in Africa. Working together, they will all use the same high-level standards when testing for Buruli ulcer, and provide training for lab technicians to maintain those standards. This network will process tests quickly and accurately so that more people can receive the care they need to heal from this terrible disease.

Thankfully for Emmanuel, when his father rushed him to one of our partner clinics, he was able to get a diagnosis and the cure he needed to recover. Your support is transforming lives! You’re touching individual lives like Emmanuel’s, and you’re creating big changes across whole countries, making it possible for more children to have stories of healing and hope. Thank you for partnering with us in this new venture to make sure that all people affected by Buruli ulcer receive fast, accurate diagnoses and the expert care they need to thrive! 

Emmanuel is the oldest of three. Thanks to your support, he was cured of Buruli ulcer.

The new Buruli Ulcer Laboratory Network includes labs in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo.

Left to right: American Leprosy Missions’ Director of Research and Innovation, Dr. Sundeep Chaitanya with Dr. Sara Eyangoh and Dr. Estelle Marion. This group proposed the Buruli Ulcer Lab Network in April 2019. American Leprosy Missions is leading the way to improve Buruli ulcer diagnosis and treatment!

This team of representatives from the new Buruli Ulcer Lab Network is working hard to make a difference for children like Emmanuel. Every person suffering from Buruli ulcer deserves a quick and accurate diagnosis so they can receive the treatment they need!