Noma: A forgotten disease

Peter Berthold

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


According to recent reports from the WHO, noma (or cancrum oris), a hideous, ancient disease primarily affecting children living in poverty in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, is increasing. Noma often starts as an ulcer on the oral mucosa or as ANG and commonly after a bout of measles or other disease. It quickly develops into a massive necrosis, moving from the inside outward, often involving major portions of the face. Early treatment with antibiotics, rehydration, correction of electrolytic imbalances, and administering nutritional supplements will halt the disease. The high mortality rate, however, indicates that many children are not given care or brought for care in time. Surviving victims often display severe facial deformities that demand extensive reconstructive surgery. Current research has elucidated parts of the pathogenesis of noma. The WHO started the International Action Network Against Noma in 1992, with its official launch on the World Health Day in 1994; a five-point action plan was presented and current work follows that plan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-574
Number of pages16
JournalDental clinics of North America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


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