Mycobacterium ulcerans is the causative agent of the Buruli ulcer, also known, in Australia, as Daintree ulcer or Bairnsdale ulcer. This destructive skin disease is characterized by extensive and painless necrosis of the skin and soft tissue with the formation of large ulcers, commonly on the leg or arm. To date, 33 countries with tropical, subtropical and temperate climates in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Western Pacific have reported cases of Buruli Ulcer. The disease is rarely fatal, although it may lead to permanent disability and/ or disfigurement if not treated appropriately or in time. It is the third most common mycobacterial infection in the world after tuberculosis and leprosy. The precise mode of transmission of M. ulcerans is yet to be elucidated. Nevertheless, it is possible that the mode of transmission varies with different geographical areas and epidemiological settings. The knowledge about the possible route of transmission and potential animal reservoir of M. ulcerans is poorly understood and still remains patchy. We conducted a systematic review with selected key words on PubMed and INFORMIT databases to aggregate available published data on animal reservoirs of M. ulcerans. After certain inclusion and exclusion criteria, a total of 17 studies were included in the review. A variety of animals, e.g rodents, shrews, possums (ringtail and brush tail), horses, dogs, alpacas, koalas and Indian flap-shelled turtles have been recorded as being infected with M. ulcerans around the world. The majority of studies included in this review identified animal reservoirs, either aquatic or terrestrial, as predisposing for the emergence and reemergence of M. ulcerans infection. Taken together, the selected studies in this systematic review and discussed so far, it is clear that exotic wildlife, aquatic animals and native mammals play a significant role as reservoirs for M. ulcerans.
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