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Flesh-eating Bugs Surface in Singapore

Doctors and health experts in Singapore have warned people that at least 90 people have been attacked by a flesh-eating bug over the past five years// in the island republic. They said the species lived in salt water and around crabs, clams, and mussels among others.

The warning came in the wake of the death of an elderly man who was bitten by a crab when he was cleaning it before cooking.

The 83-year-old Tan Boon Hock fell ill in Singapore 12 hours after he was infected with Vibrio, a type of waterborne flesh-eating bacteria. He died two days later.

The head of the department of the Infectious Diseases at the National University Hospital said there were high rate of survival chances if the disease was detected early in a young and healthy victim.

Mycobacterium ulcerans (M.ulcerans) is an unusual bacterium closely related to tuberculosis and leprosy.

Unlike those diseases, very little is known about M.ulcerans. Ulcerans produces a toxin that breaks down tissue under the skin. Untreated, it spreads inexorably, creating terrible ulcers.

It is fairly common in West Africa, where there has been an estimated 10,000 cases in the last decade. It has attacked people virulently in some parts of Australia too.

About one in a hundred sufferers die from the disease, usually from complications arising from the loss of large amounts of skin.

Research indicates humans do not get M.ulcerans from other humans or animals, but directly from the environment, possibly through a break in the skin or from an insect bite. M.ulcerans cases seem to occur near still waters or wetlands.

Doctors have said a good, effective and safe vaccine against this little known disease is urgently called for.

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