Local Heat Application for the Treatment of Buruli Ulcer: Results of a Phase II Open Label Single Center Non Comparative Clinical Trial

Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Feb 1;62(3):342-350. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ883. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Background: Buruli ulcer (BU) is a necrotizing skin disease most prevalent among West African children. The causative organism, Mycobacterium ulcerans, is sensitive to temperatures above 37°C. We investigated the safety and efficacy of a local heat application device based on phase change material.

Methods: In a phase II open label single center noncomparative clinical trial (ISRCTN 72102977) under GCP standards in Cameroon, laboratory confirmed BU patients received up to 8 weeks of heat treatment. We assessed efficacy based on the endpoints 'absence of clinical BU specific features' or 'wound closure' within 6 months ("primary cure"), and 'absence of clinical recurrence within 24 month' ("definite cure").

Results: Of 53 patients 51 (96%) had ulcerative disease. 62% were classified as World Health Organization category II, 19% each as category I and III. The average lesion size was 45 cm(2). Within 6 months after completion of heat treatment 92.4% (49 of 53, 95% confidence interval [CI], 81.8% to 98.0%) achieved cure of their primary lesion. At 24 months follow-up 83.7% (41 of 49, 95% CI, 70.3% to 92.7%) of patients with primary cure remained free of recurrence. Heat treatment was well tolerated; adverse effects were occasional mild local skin reactions.

Conclusions: Local thermotherapy is a highly effective, simple, cheap and safe treatment for M. ulcerans disease. It has in particular potential as home-based remedy for BU suspicious lesions at community level where laboratory confirmation is not available.

Clinical trials registration: ISRCT 72102977.

Keywords: Buruli ulcer; Mycobacterium ulcerans; local thermotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Buruli Ulcer / therapy*
  • Cameroon
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / adverse effects
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods*
  • Male
  • Treatment Outcome