June 16th, 2008
11:39 AM ET

Cameroon's "cursed" children

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/16/art.guptatreating2.jpg]

Dr. Sanjay Gupta BIO
Chief Medical Correspondent

In a small town called Akonolinga, about an hour outside Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, a strange disease is going around that primarily affects children.

It starts as an ulcer on the skin that quickly spreads. Untreated, it can start to affect the bones and eventually even get into the bloodstream. If it gets to that point, there is little that can be done, and the child will often succumb to the disease.

They try everything in this small village town to not let it get to that bad. They scrape away the skin, cutting out the diseased areas. They give injections of various medicines, and they keep people in hospitals for months.

I met a young boy named Naturale, who had to have his left arm amputated at the shoulder. I almost cried when I met him. By the time he came into see a doctor, the disease was too far gone, his bones literally crumbling. As I visited the clinic, I learned the name of the disease: Buruli. I also learned something that stunned me – what many in this town believe is the origin of Buruli: Witchcraft.

It goes like this – as a punishment for taking something or some other trivial thing, these children had been cursed by witches and sorcerers living in the nearby areas. Take someone else's mango for example, and soon after the child will get an ulcer. In Naturale's case, he was born out of wedlock, and the witches in the area thought it would be better if he were dead. I was told they cursed him with a particularly severe infection, and he barely survived. Now he stays at the hospital trying to shield himself.

Now, if you think what you are reading is too far-fetched, you may be interested to know I sat down with Ph.D-level medical anthropologist, Karen Saylors, who explained all of this to me. Along with researchers associated with Johns Hopkins, she is studying Buruli.

Buruli ulcers have been reported in more than 30 countries, according to the World Health Organization. With the increasing geographical spread since 1980, WHO is working to improve surveillance and develop better tools to control the disease. Karen introduced me to traditional healers who knew all about placing a hex on someone and even how to cure the disease with herbs and a piece of bark.

While Karen and her colleagues don't really buy into the idea of witchcraft, they also recognize what a widespread belief it really is here. Instead, Karen has busied herself studying the possibility that Buruli may be spread from animal to human. As it has many similarities to a staph infection, which can cause flesh to be ulcerated and seemlingly "eaten,", the doctors are using powerful antibiotics with good success. Karen has even studied the particular traditional medicine herbs, which are often effective. What she found was that particular plant had some of the same ingredients found in streptomycin, an antibiotic.

As a doctor, it was amazing to see how this disease has been deciphered. It was also a fascinating glimpse into the connection between animals, plants and humans. Not only is the Buruli-causing pathogen most likely from an animal, but the medication used to treat it is from a local plant. And, if we look deep enough, we find this is in fact the case with many diseases.

Today, I will be in the wilderness of DRC, specifically a village called Lodja. We will be visiting a monkeypox surveillance clinic. I promise to report back on how the locals here are working to contain the virus so it doesn't spread around the world. I can't help be struck by the fact that we are in the middle of a very strong interface between man and animal. It has been here for millions of years, but it is only now that we are starting to understand its awesome culture, power and possible danger.

Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta • Medical News • Planet in Peril
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. S Callahan

    I have to agree with David Walters...we have an all powerful God to turn to for healing, and that same God utilizes medical discoverys and technology to help heal his children along with prayer.
    I think the most important thing i gained from this article is the medical and sociological field's may not agree, but at least recognize, one's spiritual connection to illness and disease, and how people relate to it. It is a fool to deny it does not exist, it does. I have a sister who was left brain injured, semi paralyzed, deemed to death...yet through many prayers she was revived, has recovered to a functioning level, and to baffle science further...her brain scans show parts of her brain not working, yet she is functioning in the areas the brain says she can't. Yes, there is truly a spiritual connection to illness and our faith.

    June 16, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  2. Emmanuel

    I have mixed feelings about your reporting from Africa, specifically, Cameroon. I am tired of negative reporting on Africa. I am afraid that your work will only further solidify what many in the world today belief, namely, that many, if not all strange deceases emanate from Africa – ebola, HIV, etc. There is too much negativity in the news about Africa. I doubt that one more is needed. I think the networks and media as a whole need to find something positive in Africa to report on, such as the stock markets in some of the countries with extremely high returns – which will make Wall Street look like child's play. Perhaps you can report on how Africans are working hard to survive, despite obvious economic imperialism and neo-colonism by the West in colaboration with the African dictators. Something that will cast the people in a possitive light instead of being constantly associated with HIV, ebola and everything negative.

    June 16, 2008 at 6:31 pm |
  3. Louise

    Dr. Gupta,
    It is interesting to read about your experience in Cameroon especially after living and working at a hospital in the extreme north of Cameroon and seeing Burulli ulcers first hand. I think it is very important to learn how locals treat disease and work together to learn about possible effective treatment . I am glad that you are spreading awareness about disease, treatment, and cultural barriers to medicine that foreign health workers face. I will be starting med school in Aug and hope to be back in Cameroon one day! Keep up the good work and if you get a chance visit an amazing hospital in Meskine (CMAO)!

    June 16, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  4. ruth

    As a Cameroonian though I might hate many things about my country, it is still my country and I am very sensitive to reporting that gives the impression that all bad things originates from there. As someone has mentioned above, Cameroon is not the only country with this disease and as much as I love the 360 team, I will appreciate it if they got all the facts straights and also report in a way that show they are hard working people in Cameroon who do not belief every disease they cannot explain is as a result of witchcraft.

    MODERATOR: Thanks for the feedback. Dr. Gupta has updated the post.

    June 16, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  5. laila

    Dr Gupta and crew,thanks for your effort ,hope you will find the cure for this epidemic,for i am a Camerronian and very proud of my country despite all the odds,but we've grown to believe that witch craft exists and is being affected by many of our brothers and sisters in Cameroon.
    Also there are certain ilnesses that people to witchcraft which is actually not,like cancer before,if undiagnosed they call it witchcraft.
    Thanks for your efforts.
    May God bless you all and give you the strength to help this children find a cure.

    June 16, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  6. bliatm

    steve basler, it is quite obvious you are of european descent and mr. mokaya is of african descent –simply from the underling tone in both your comments. mr. mokaya is rightfully so offended by the simplicity of cindy's comments (however I hope cindy is young or not quite versed on such matters.) the point mr. mokaya makes is corrected and well respected in john hopkins medical journals: ancient and modern medicines.

    steve basler June 16th, 2008 3:29 pm ET

    Mr Mokaya,

    Could it be that you are also guilty of “selective reading.” The individual in question may not be politically correct by your standards but the concern and compassion appears unquestionly genuine. How is it that you can determine a person’s level of knowledge, political leanings and motives by reading a paragraph of their writing. That is stunning interpretive prowness.

    June 16, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  7. Amabelle

    Thanks Doc Gupta, i think its high time the government of the country does something about these diseases. Making it seem like a curse wil just help them fold their arms and act like, we can' t help, because the disease is as a result of a curse. Can you please further your research, cause this is clearly some form of leprosy, and biology can answer some of these questions we keep asking ourselves. God's Speed

    June 16, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  8. Kwame, Burtonsville, MD

    Thanks and KUDOS for your DEDICATION, and leveraging the "CNN Platform" to showcase this dreadful disease, which from the blogs, looks like "originated" in East Africa.

    Dr. Gupta since you grew up in my native Ghana, looks like you can "educate" your CNN team and the world, that Africa is not ALWAYS the CRADLE of DREADFUL, INCURABLE diseases, but often the by-product of poverty, corrupt governments with "skewed/lop-sided" priorities. I'm not advocating for any "political correctness" here, and I must stress the GRATITUDE most of us of African descent feel towards a team such as you and Mr. Anderson's for "shedding light" on this sad situation that some of our very poor brethren find themselves. Please keep up the GOOD work, and offer us more of this genre!!

    Thanks again Team!!

    June 16, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  9. Paul O. Okunbor

    The erroneous belief in witchcraft is the bane of most African societies in particular. It is so rooted among the people that even some educated ones among them have not been able to relieve their minds of such beliefs. This scenario has robbed the people of any real chance of finding the root causes of illnesses based on meaning scientific approach to solving problems. It shows that ignorance is still persistent in much of the continent. Until the time when the generality of the people are educated to the point where they can see that illnesses are not caused by unseen forces of nature but by disease causing organisms, the situation will not be much different than it is now.

    June 16, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Dev

    Thanks for the report doctor. I am glad there are good folks like you who can travel to these locations and report how life is in other parts of this world.

    June 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  11. Robin, Nashville TN

    I think we should ALL remember that when we treat another person with disregard, we are giving others the permission to treat us in the very same way. Not tolerating another's religion/ skin color/ dignity... gives others the right to not tolerate our own. Life may very well be a test- those who have compassion could pass with high marks.

    June 16, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  12. Lonnie Trevisan

    I am a nurse who is also a believer in Jesus Christ who died for the sins and the sickness of all of humanity. " If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. " (Matthew 18: 20) These are the actual words of Jesus in the Bible. I encourage you to lay hands on this child, and speak words of healing, "By the stripes of Jesus Christ, you are healed." And believe that God will use you to heal the sick. And rebuke the enemy , the spirit of disease and infirmity over the child, in Jesus Name. We have authority over any witchcraft or demonic spirits if we are living bornagain believers in Jesus Christ and "Greater is He that is within us than He that is in the world." Jesus is alive even todya and miracles, sign, and wonders will follow those who act in faith in the aLord Jesus Christ. I am not discounting the research in the medical realm to find the correct medication for this condition, but it must be attacked from both the physical and the spiritual realm. Please pray .

    June 16, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  13. Sasha

    Dr. Gupta-
    Thank you for bringing attention to some of the health issues facing Cameroon and its neighbors. I hope you get this in time to pursue something I have been curious about for years -since I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Djoum, Cameroun (1995-1997); my village was about 115km south of Sangmelima, and I have passed through Akonolinga many times.
    It was found by some Columbia University researchers in the rainforrest not too far from me that the pygmies in my area had antibodies to the ebola virus, a disease that was newly coming to mainstream attention in 1995 (Richard Preston's book, and then the movie Outbreak had just come out plus there were the outbreaks in Gabon at the time). This suggested to me that the disease must not be that new, just new to us in the West. In addition, the pymies are traditionally nomadic, and when someone in the tribe dies, they do not bury their dead, they leave the camp and move on, leaving the body covered in leaves and rags.
    That made me wonder why, and I thought maybe they'd noticed a trend between preparation of a corpse for burial, and the preparer dying (contaminated by the blood of the deceased). Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that in the local language (Bulu), 'ebola' means 'rotten,' and the South Province's capital city is named Ebolowa, which translates to 'rotten monket mountain,' which would suggest something significant involving a rotten monkey must have happened there long ago. Finally, the main staple in my area was primates, since the tribes around me are hunter-gatherers, traditionally, and the anthropological impact of that is still very much in evidence.
    Now, the virus was named for the Ebola River in Congo because the 1986 Marburg virus which is what we now consider ebola or was the first known case of it, seems to have originated in a cave along this river; and in addition, the language local to that area splits off the language tree from Bulu far too early to assert that the Bulu word for rotten has anything to do with the name of the River, there just seems to be too much coincidence. I have a few more pieces of anecdotal evidence of a trend, if it would help.
    Any chance you can look into this or straighten me out?
    I look forward to your coming articles.

    June 16, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  14. Donna

    Dear Dr. Gupta: I have admired your work at CNN and your continous curiousity about the world diseases and children. Thank you.
    Have you also studied Tropical Diseases in the Caribbean? Often times the suspicions also is in the rural areas in these islands with the handed down African traditions combined with the modern meds.

    Please keep up the good work or at least get other scients attention to look into these less fortunate peoples of the world.

    June 16, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  15. Tracey Anderson - Boston, MA

    Naturale has lived with the shame of being a bastard and told this is his punishment!!!

    What in the world possesses people to blame the child. It really amazes me how adults treat children.

    Maybe the parents should be cursed!! That's how I feel.

    I know that is wrong to say it but not wrong to feel it.

    There are many ilegitimate children have made the most out of our society:

    Jesus Christ
    Constantine of New Rome/Byzantium/Constantinople
    William the Conqueror
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Richard Wagner
    Alexander Hamilton
    T.E. Lawrence

    and yor truely.

    June 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Marvin

    Good job Dr Gupta. But you make it sound like this is some exotic new discovery of a budding epidemic – or at least you run the risk of leaving that impression. This disease was first diagnosed in east africa and has been well documented in other continets... I understanding ratings are important, and 360 has to sell advertizing. But come on Doc...

    June 16, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  17. ian browne

    So,verily,with every difficulty,there is relief. Quran 94:5

    June 16, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Kwame-Eric, Houston TX

    Good reporting...Hope a cure can be found easily....I'm sure this desease can be controlled and eradicated... I'm a native of Cameroon...and still love my homeland dearly ... Thanks for the lime light...God's speed...!

    June 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Micahel

    I'm confused, "... her PHD, named Karen Saylors." How'd she get to name her PHD?

    June 16, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  20. steve basler

    Mr Mokaya,

    Could it be that you are also guilty of "selective reading." The individual in question may not be politically correct by your standards but the concern and compassion appears unquestionly genuine. How is it that you can determine a person's level of knowledge, political leanings and motives by reading a paragraph of their writing. That is stunning interpretive prowness.

    June 16, 2008 at 3:29 pm |
  21. Miluska

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Akonolinga a few years back and I remember the locals giving me that same reason: that withcraft is what caused many of the diseases I inquired about. I didn't continue to take it any further, since they seemed pretty staunch about their explanation. I was a business volunteer anyway...

    June 16, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  22. norma schultz

    In my last comment I neglected to tell you how interesting your articles and CNN reports are. The people of the part of this country have been unundated for centuries with one disease after another. If it isn't starving, raping and torture, they are the epitomy of suffering. I hope that this new found medicine derived from a plant can be the cure for this horrible disease, as well as open new doors for other afflictions. They are such strong people, and have endured way too much for any human to have to. Thank God someone continues to look for ways to make lives better for them. Thank you for all you do to help humanity.

    God Bless you.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  23. Jaik , chicago, IL

    All religion exists to make firm easy answers for things people don't have the ability to understand. It makes the person feel secure as tho they have some control over things that are beyond their ability to understand. Its very unfortunate when that cultural construct of religion gets in the way of real scientific understanding, the way Christianity fights against evolution in the schools, or against Galileo, or in Zambia, speaking of about AIDS one priest told a room full of orphans: 'I do not support the use of condoms,' shouted the priest. 'Because that has been made by man. Man cannot protect this – it is only God.'

    June 16, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  24. bate agbor-baiyee

    Thanks Dr. Gupta, Anderson Cooper and crew for your outstanding work with this. I read the piece with a lot of sorrow, yet I am optimistic because of the 'genuine conversation' I hope it generates around the question of lack of basic health care infastrutures and medical backwardness in the hinterlands of Cameroon and other parts of Africa. As a world renowned Dr/journalist with the powerful platform (CNN), one is only hopeful that your voice will lend credence to this issue of poverty and health. I am confident that your narrative will appeal to the consciences of other big wigs in the medical, pharmaceutical fields and beyond to be inspired to come out there and help. The likes of Naturale will continue to suffer and die unless they get real help from those of us who who have been blessed to call ourselvs privileged in life. My sincerest thanks to you for this humanitarian endeavor.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  25. Shannon

    I live in the modern day society and I do home health care for a living. I began to see a patient that was a devil worshipper. Slowly over a period of weeks, the patient and her nephew began to scare me and I began to feed into the fear. I starting becoming very drained of my energy, to the point I could not even work. One of my co-workers noticed that the patient who was never supposed to walk again, got out of bed, started walking. Her hair became shiny, her skin became soft and young looking. I actually developed grey hair during this time. When we realized what was going on, I was immediatley pulled from the house. When the spell was broken, the nephew, who I now believe cast the spell using my pen and some of my hair that fell on the bed, became very ill and had to be hospitalized. The woman died. But, I became a believer then that there are in fact things out there that we can't explain. I have been told it's call pshycic vapirism. This is something that truely happened and a group from a church laid hands on me to give me my strength back. As they laid hands on me I felt hot all over and regained my strength. I truely believe that if you don't allow them to hurt you they can't, but if you ever start believing that they can, they will. I also learned if you truely believe in God, then you know the devil is out there and he is strong. The people being affected by this truely believe they can be hurt. It sounds very illogical, I am a health care proffesional and I know all about diseases, but there are things out there you can't explain....
    Thanks for the very interesting report.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  26. George A. Mokaya

    Cindy, your condescending comments are most disgusting. Take a look at the way you refer to “them” …who do you exactly mean???…anything “they” can’t explain)…”they also think that they can cure it with their medicine men”... blah blah blah. Why read the article so selectively? You mean to tell the world that you did not read this: …Karen has even studied the particular traditional medicine herbs, which are often effective. What she found was that particular plant had some of the same ingredients found in streptomycin, an antibiotic. Believe me, long before modern medicine, the medicine-men you refer so dismissively did cure diseases. Your ignorance is amazing and true; your apparent luck of knowledge about other cultures is shared by a huge segment of unapprised people in the western world. How unfortunate is that? Just go back and reflect on your frightening frenzy…Look at your warning for instance… “hope that you all are being very careful around this stuff! Take care and stay safe!!! It is as if in mother Africa, foreigners are in perpetual danger form some strange diseases. What can I say?? Didn’t they opine that AIDS originated in African when we know otherwise? It is a shame that this great country (USA) that I have come to adore is inhabited by people with your line of thinking. It is sickening.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  27. Debbie

    The fact that this disease is reacting in a postive manner to the antibiotic makes me believe that it's treatable. Here in American we have diseases that are similar and not treatable. American's believe in "curses" also called "Roots". Do we get the exagerations that the people of Africa receive. I had a brother-in-law who suffered for over 15 years with Lou Gheirtes Disease and has know passed away and scientist have never found a cure for this. Our family also believed that he was "cursed". If doctor's could go to these country's and just treat these patients and stop exploiting them, maybe more can be cured.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  28. Francis Zapa

    I've heard of this disease before and we were told that it's a form leprosy. It was reportde that those took a bath in the river Nyong which paases through the city of Mbalmayo are likely to catch this didease. some people even call it 'ulcere de Bruli'.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  29. patricia

    Jut another form of genocide. Why does it only affect the children? To wipe out the next generation. A shame.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:29 pm |
  30. Lucy

    This is so sad to hear. I'd be interested to know what comes back in the culture as their are low cost products available that have broad spectrum effectiveness against MRSA, E.Coli & more.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  31. Taniform, lawrence

    I watch AC 360 every weekday. I'm thrilled that Anderso and Dr. Gupta will be reporting on Cameroon. These are two courageous young men who see the sky as the limit.

    June 16, 2008 at 2:18 pm |
  32. Pat from Madison, WI

    I am curious, Dr. Gupta.....does the infection become resistant to the herbal medicine in the same ways other bacteria become resistant to antibiotics? Is there the same tendency to become allergic to the medication?

    I am not really surprised that native cultures know about this version of streptomycin, native cultues were aware of the curative powers of a crude form of penicllin long before Western cultures were willing to use it. (No Flemmingreally did not "discover" penicillin – he just documented it.)

    June 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm |
  33. Dowin Coffy

    and why is there such an emphasis on the medicines made by pharmaceutical corporations when we all know that there are plants out there who have the many of the same properties... by manufacturing these new drugs microorganisms are mutating and adapting.. i like the idea of treating natural microorganisms with natural plants...

    June 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
  34. Koma

    The balance of nature is always important to maintain, but understanding the people and environment allows us to get the answers we seek. The plant that has the cure was found in that same environment, so i'm sure the cause for the disease is also of that same environment. Witchcraft on the other hand has always been a part of all cultures, just set in different ways. Scientific research is extremely important but we cannot simply put aside the hollistic. Combining both is the most efficient way to resolving the solution without offsetting the balance. The Masai worriors drink cow blood but have survived centuries... African traditions are deeply rooted. Cameroonian (Bassa) in Arizona

    June 16, 2008 at 1:57 pm |
  35. Gecko-San

    Well thats kind of horrible how the community has been treating him. He is just a little boy that is having such a hard childhood. I hope everything works out and they find a cure before anyone else is effected as severely as Naturale. The fact that the cure can be found locally is great it just shows how much we need our environment.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:51 pm |
  36. Gretta

    this disease sounds a kin to the almost eradicated Leprosy.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  37. David Walters

    I was not at all surprised when I read that the origin of Buruli was attributed to witchcraft. Of course, for those (most?) in the free world who have known little or nothing about the unseen realm, they would, of course, deny that it even exists. That's so unfortunate, because the primary antidote for spiritual wickedness is naturally (or I should say, supernaturally) spiritual, not physical. It would take very little effort to verify over and over again the absolute fact that this world is involved in a spiritual warfare. It is not haphazard or by chance, but it is a strategic plan that involves deception, lies and cover-ups to accomplish its purposes of wickedness, destruction and death to all who are sadly immersed in it with the truth. And what is the truth? The truth is that there is an all-knowing God of this universe who not only knows all of this this, but one whom all these wicked powers must bow down to in order to even exist! Yes, this one true God who created all things and who is sovereign over every so-called authority on earth and in the spiritual realm, allows such evil to exist for the same eternal purpose that he dowes everything: to save those who will believe in and entrust their lives to him rather than the pethora of false gods and evil powers that exist. But this is not an everlasting condition in the world. A day is coming when there will be judgment of all things - all mankind and all in the unseen realms. No one knows that day except God, but he is both patient and merciful and doesn't desire that even one person remains in their sad state of darkness, but that they would enter into the peace and the light of his presence for eternity. He has also provided the way for this to happen! And THAT is the answer for those with your newly discovered disease. Not that God won't allow doctors and researchers to discover human remedies, but why not go directly to the source and submit to the only one who can and will heal them as a result of their faith in him?! Whoever listen to him and learn from him WILL come to the truth and be delivered. But I fear that most of mankind would prefer to think that they have a better answer, and the suffering and deaths will continue. I wish so much that Naturale would be given the option, and I pray that he and all the other innocent children will indeed be told the truth that there is one God over all man who loves them and will come to the aid of those who put their trust in him alone, as I also have. Amen.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:45 pm |
  38. Gervais

    Dr Gupta,
    Thanks for the report from my native Cameroon. I think many westerners ignore the many believes that they once had. Galileo was killed in Italy!
    The world was and is not always cartesian. That's why the work of anthropologists is critical to understanding the environmental and psychological scopes of many fields, diseases being one of the most important.

    Thanks for briging a good light on this.


    June 16, 2008 at 1:42 pm |
  39. Jamie DeAngelo

    Dear Sanjay,
    I appreciate your empathy for the children of Cameroon, but I want to point out a bias that this article unwittingly purports. The above two comments make it clear-readers are making a correlation between the religious beliefs of Cameroon individuals and their inability to control the disease.
    As a student, I traveld in South Africa and met other students from Botswana, Zimbabwae, and Ghana. All were well-educated individuals who attended good secondary schools and had a firm background in the Christian tradition; all also (surprisingly) considered their primary personal religious system traditional- a belief in "witchcraft", ritual healing, and communication with ancestors. This belief did not stilt their intelligence, their open-mindedness, and certainly not their ability to seek medical attention.

    The spread of disease in Cameroon is not perpetuated by a belief in hexes, but is the result of poverty and a lack of technological and medical intervention. We should take care to remember this, and also to acknowledge that buzzing about the strange and exotic beliefs of other cultures can only inhibit our ability to help them.

    In America, individuals like Jerry Falwell, who blames 9-11 on the sins of women and gays, are protected and respected, despite the extremism of their religious beliefs. It seems our media is unwilling to extend that courtesy to individuals who espouse unusual or exotic belief systems (which are no less arbitrary, and are indeed older, than Christianity)


    Jamie DeAngelo

    June 16, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  40. Jean-Louis

    Please check your facts.
    1) "previously unrecorded disease": Buruli ulcer is well described in the medical and scientific literature and occurs on several continents.
    2) "As I visited the clinic, I learned they had given this disease a name: Buruli": the name Buruli is not from the clinic in Cameroon but well established and derived from a locale (Buruli County, present day Nakasongola district in Uganda) where numerous cases of the disease have been reported.
    3) "microbacteria": I believe you mean Mycobacteria. The agent of the Buruli ulcer is Mycobacterium ulcerans. The antibiotics used are more similar to the ones used to treat tuberculosis than Staphylococcus.

    The WHO has information resources for reporters and journalists: http://www.who.int/buruli/information/en/


    MODERATOR: Thanks for the feedback. Dr. Gupta has updated the post.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:40 pm |
  41. Lynn Collins

    Thank you for being willing to bring this subject to light. We all see how consumed our society gets with celebrity baby news, fashions, nice cars, insanely huge houses (who NEEDS 30 bedrooms?!) and so on. Which is fine, to a point. But thanks to people like Dr. Gupta and many others who unselfishly give of their time and expertise, REAL issues are being researched and brought to our attention. I cannot speak for everybody, but finding ways to help underprivileged children and supporting their tireless crusaders is news that TRULY matters; news that can change the world if we all can take a little time to see that there are issues out there far more news-worthy than who just spent $70 million on a HOUSE......

    June 16, 2008 at 1:23 pm |
  42. Prof. Benny A. Akonteh, Ph.D.

    Dr. Gupta, thanks for the good work. Though not widely recognized there is a psychological component to medical treatments and strongly influened by beliefs and traditions. However, stories about witchcrafts tend to skew the underlying causal pathogens of diseases such as you have described. I would apprciate it if you send me the name (botanical if possible) of the current plant used by the natives to cure or at leat alleviate pain associated with this disease. I am involved in naturopathic and biotechnology research and be interested in the plant. Thanks for your cooperation.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:21 pm |
  43. Carl

    Thanks for the update. I have seen many children with this disease in rural Ghana. It is very dramatic. I have tried to look up the treatment for this and it has seemed that surgical intervention is the only recourse. Per your report it seems that there is now an antibiotic treatment.
    Could you let me know what this is, as I will be going back to Ghana to work in my clinic in the next year. Thanks
    Dr. Carl Seger

    June 16, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  44. Tom

    Hopefully, science can assist these children. I wonder if the environment is affecting the children – their location, changes temperatures, etc.

    And maybe trying to isolate the disease for study and studying it in a sterile environment, going so far as taking it to the ISS lab.

    Tom in League City, Texas

    June 16, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  45. Wilfred

    What Karen and co is doing is a very good starting point. Also, i think that Culture and Sensitivity testing that combines use of local herbs and various antibiotics could also be tried and maybe some good result might be achieved that could help poor innocents kids like Naturale.


    Calgary Canada

    June 16, 2008 at 1:13 pm |
  46. Cherokee

    In the Cherokee culture there is a story that our elders tell to our children. A long time ago man, animal, plants and the earth lived together in harmony. However, after a period of time man got to be too great in number and were starting to throw off the natural balance of the world. They were eating too many animals, and to bring the world back into balance the animals met together to discuss how this problem could be corrected. To bring the number of men back into balance animals released disease into the environment to kill man. The effect was too great, and again the balance was thrown off. The plants met and decided to provide man with the knowledge of traditional medicines. The balance of disease with medicine put the world right again. Indigenous people the world over would likely agree that the cycle is coming around again.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm |
  47. Pita Nkem

    Anderson and team of AC/360
    accept my warm greetings from Douala Cameroon.
    I am so please with the giant efforts your team is taking to help not only the Cameroonians but the world as a whole to sensitize and to eliminate this new concept of food search that will lead this country into a deadly pandermic in future.
    This issue of Bush meat is deeply implanted in the minds of many Cameroonians that, they they border to know what is the after effect of this Bush Meat issue.
    It is a serious issue and thanks to you and and your crew, maybe something would be done in the near future.

    June 16, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
  48. Virginia Ryan

    it's great to see that we continue to investigate and learn more about disease and how it spreads. It is also fascinating to hear of traditional treatments and beliefs. I can only pray that this particular disease is contained and an effective treatment found before too many other children are affected.
    Thank you Dr. Gupta

    June 16, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
  49. Mio - Japan

    What a curious report! I cannot wait to watch the report, but at the same time, I know I will also cry when I see Naturale. Living with that disease is already tough for him, but he has to fight against prejudice.

    People living in modern society believe that one won't contract diseases just because they are cursed. Can we tell that to people who believe witchcraft? Does that mean denying their belief?

    June 16, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  50. Cindy

    Thanks for the update. I really can't wait to see your report on this terrible disease! It sounds really interesting.

    I can see where they can think this disease is caused by witchcraft. I mean anything that they can't explain away they have to come up with some cause for it. Unfortunately they also think that they can cure it with their medicine men so to speak. So they wait too long to get real help.

    I am sure also that this disease is from them getting something from the animals that they eat...either that or some plant.

    I hope that you show Naturale in the doc because I'd really like to see and possibly hear from him about this.

    I hope that you all are being very careful around this stuff! Take care and stay safe!


    June 16, 2008 at 12:02 pm |
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