Losing tropical forest might raise risks of human skin ulcers, deformed bones | Science News

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Losing tropical forest might raise risks of human skin ulcers, deformed bones

Bacteria causing Buruli disease prosper with certain landscape changes

2:00pm, December 7, 2016
buruli ulcer

FOREST CHANGE  Clearing forests and changing landscapes might affect how many people develop Buruli ulcer. The disease is caused by bacteria shown here (in red) in a section of otherwise healthy mouse tissue (in blue).

Clearing tropical forests may raise the risk of people being exposed to a gruesome disease called Buruli ulcer, a new study suggests.


Mycobacterium ulcerans, the bacteria that cause Buruli skin lesions and bone deformities, can thrive in a wide range of wild creatures, especially tiny insects grazing on freshwater algae, says Aaron Morris, now at Imperial College London. Surveying more than 3,600 invertebrates and fish from both pristine forests and cleared land in French Guiana, Morris and colleagues found the bacteria flourishing in altered landscapes. As species are lost from once-complex food webs, there’s an intermediate zone where bacteria-friendly species thrive, Morris and colleagues propose online December 7 in Science Advances.


When people push into tropical forests to build farms, roads and towns, the food web of the forest grows simpler,

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