The World Health Organization currently recommends combined streptomycin and rifampicin antibiotic treatment as first-line therapy for Mycobacterium ulcerans infections. Alternatives are needed when these are not tolerated or accepted by patients, contraindicated, or neither accessible nor affordable. Despite in vitro effectiveness, clinical evidence for fluoroquinolone antibiotic use against Mycobacterium ulcerans is lacking. We describe outcomes and tolerability of fluoroquinolone-containing antibiotic regimens for Mycobacterium ulcerans in south-eastern Australia.
Analysis was performed of prospectively collected data including all primary Mycobacterium ulcerans infections treated at Barwon Health between 1998 and 2010. Medical treatment involved antibiotic use for more than 7 days; surgical treatment involved surgical excision of a lesion. Treatment success was defined as complete lesion healing without recurrence at 12 months follow-up. A complication was defined as an adverse event attributed to an antibiotic that required its cessation. A total of 133 patients with 137 lesions were studied. Median age was 62 years (range 3–94 years). 47 (34%) had surgical treatment alone, and 90 (66%) had combined surgical and medical treatment. Rifampicin and ciprofloxacin comprised 61% and rifampicin and clarithromycin 23% of first-line antibiotic regimens. 13/47 (30%) treated with surgery alone failed treatment compared to 0/90 (0%) of those treated with combination medical and surgical treatment (p<0.0001). There was no difference in treatment success rate for antibiotic combinations containing a fluoroquinolone (61/61 cases; 100%) compared with those not containing a fluoroquinolone (29/29 cases; 100%). Complication rates were similar between ciprofloxacin and rifampicin (31%) and rifampicin and clarithromycin (33%) regimens (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.27–2.99). Paradoxical reactions during treatment were observed in 8 (9%) of antibiotic treated cases.
Antibiotics combined with surgery may significantly increase treatment success for Mycobacterium ulcerans infections, and fluoroquinolone combined with rifampicin-containing antibiotic regimens can provide an effective and safe oral treatment option.
Buruli ulcer is a necrotizing infection of skin and subcutaneous tissue caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans and is the third most common mycobacterial disease worldwide (after tuberculosis and leprosy). In recent years its treatment has radically changed, evolving from a predominantly surgically to a predominantly medically treated disease. The World Health Organization now recommends combined streptomycin and rifampicin antibiotic treatment as first-line therapy for Mycobacterium ulcerans infections. However, alternatives are needed where recommended antibiotics are not tolerated or accepted by patients, contraindicated, or not accessible nor affordable. This study describes the use of antibiotics, including oral fluoroquinolones, in the treatment of Mycobacterium ulcerans in south-eastern Australia. It demonstrates that antibiotics combined with surgery are highly effective in the treatment of Mycobacterium ulcerans. In addition, oral fluoroquinolone-containing antibiotic combinations are shown to be as effective and well tolerated as other recommended antibiotic combinations. Fluoroquinolone antibiotics therefore offer the potential to provide an alternative oral antibiotic to be combined with rifampicin for Mycobacterium ulcerans treatment, allowing more accessible and acceptable, less toxic, and less expensive treatment regimens to be available, especially in resource-limited settings where the disease burden is greatest.