Aquatic plants stimulate the growth of and biofilm formation by Mycobacterium ulcerans in axenic culture and harbor these bacteria in the environment

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Feb;70(2):1097-103. doi: 10.1128/AEM.70.2.1097-1103.2004.


Mycobacterium ulcerans is the causative agent of Buruli ulcer, one of the most common mycobacterial diseases of humans. Recent studies have implicated aquatic insects in the transmission of this pathogen, but the contributions of other elements of the environment remain largely unknown. We report here that crude extracts from two green algae added to the BACTEC 7H12B culture medium halved the doubling time of M. ulcerans and promoted biofilm formation. Using the 7H12B medium, modified by the addition of the algal extract, and immunomagnetic separation, we also demonstrate that M. ulcerans is associated with aquatic plants in an area of the Ivory Coast where Buruli ulcer is endemic. Genotype analysis showed that plant-associated M. ulcerans had the same profile as isolates recovered in the same region from both aquatic insects and clinical specimens. These observations implicate aquatic plants as a reservoir of M. ulcerans and add a new potential link in the chain of transmission of M. ulcerans to humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algal Proteins / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorophyta / growth & development
  • Culture Media
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / transmission
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans / growth & development*
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans / pathogenicity
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Scrophulariaceae / growth & development
  • Scrophulariaceae / microbiology*
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / transmission
  • Skin Ulcer / microbiology
  • Water Microbiology


  • Algal Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Plant Extracts