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Noma

Noma is a rapidly progressive bacterial infection of the face and mouth. Noma is also known as gangrenous stomatitis or cancrum oris. The disease begins as inflammation of the gums and rapidly spreads to destroy facial tissue and bone.

Rare microbiological studies suggest an opportunistic infection caused by an imbalance in normal intraoral microorganisms. Epidemiological data are scarce but the global incidence is estimated to be 30,000–40,000 cases per year. If untreated, the mortality rate is as high as 85%. Early diagnosis and antibiotic therapy can prevent severe disfigurement and death. 

Noma primarily occurs in sub-Saharan Africa where it mainly affects malnourished children between the ages of 2 and 6 years. Poor oral hygiene, malnutrition, weakened immune systems, and extreme poverty are among the risk factors. 

In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) added noma to its official list of neglected tropical diseases.

References

Dall, C. Noma added to WHO list of neglected tropical diseases. CIDRAP, December 18, 2023.

Srour L et al. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2017 Feb 8; 96(2): 268–274. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.16-0718.

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