Scientists are calling for an 'urgent response'

Scientists in Australia say parts of the country are suffering from a 'rapidly worsening epidemic' of a flesh-eating ulcer.

The Buruli ulcer is most commonly found in Africa, and can impact people of all age groups.

While the disease has been linked with wetlands, the exact causes remain unclear - with health officials uncertain about how it is transmitted to humans.

In Australia's Victoria state, the number of cases jumped from under 50 in 2005 to almost 250 last year.

There are now calls for funding to research the disease and identify possible measures to prevent it occurring both in Australia and around the world. 

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers observed: "As a community, we are facing a rapidly worsening epidemic of a severe disease without knowing how to prevent it.

"We therefore need an urgent response based on robust scientific knowledge acquired by a thorough and exhaustive examination of the environment, local fauna, human behaviour and characteristics, and the interactions between them."

They add: "The time to act is now, and we advocate for local, regional and national governments to urgently commit to funding the research needed to stop Buruli ulcer."