Disease: Yaws

    Yaws facts

    • Yaws is a common disease of children in the tropics.
    • Yaws is a chronic, relapsing infectious illness.
    • Yaws first affects the skin and later possibly the bones and joints as well.
    • Yaws is caused by a bacterium, the spirochete Treponema pertenue.
    • Transmission is by skin-to-skin contact. The spirochete cannot penetrate normal skin but can enter through a scrape or cut in the skin.
    • Yaws is promoted by overcrowding and poor hygiene.
    • Yaws (except for tertiary yaws) can be cured by a single shot of penicillin.

    What is yaws? What are symptoms of yaws?

    Yaws is a common chronic infectious disease that occurs mainly in warm humid regions such as the tropical areas of Africa, Asia, South and Central Americas, plus the Pacific Islands. The disease has many names (for example, pian, parangi, paru, frambesia tropica). Yaws usually features lesions that appear as bumps on the skin of the face, hands, feet, and genital area. The disease most often starts as a single lesion that becomes slightly elevated, develops a crust that is shed, leaving a base that resembles the texture of a raspberry or strawberry. This primary lesion is termed the mother yaw (also termed buba, buba madre, or primary frambesioma). Secondary lesions, termed daughter yaws, develop in about six to 16 weeks after the primary lesion. Almost all cases of yaws begin in children under 15 years of age, with the peak incidence in 6-10-year-old children. The incidence is about the same in males and females.

    What causes yaws?

    Yaws is caused by a particular bacterium called a spirochete (a spiral-shaped type of bacteria). The bacterium is scientifically referred to as Treponema pertenue. This organism is considered by some investigators to be a subspecies of T. pallidum, the organism that causes syphilis (a systemic sexually-transmitted disease). Other investigators consider it to be a closely related but separate species of Treponema. T. carateum, the cause of pinta (a skin infection with bluish-black spots), is also closely related to T. pertenue. The history of yaws is unclear; the first possible mention of the disease is considered to be in the Old Testament. D. Bruce and D. Nabarro discovered the spirochete causing yaws (T. pertenue) in 1905.

    How does yaws begin and spread?

    Yaws begins when T. pertenue penetrates the skin at a site where skin was scraped, cut, or otherwise compromised. In most cases, T. pertenue is transmitted from person to person. At the entrance site, a painless bump lesion, or bump, arises within two to eight weeks and grows. The initial lesion is referred to as the mother yaw. The lymph nodes in the area of the mother yaw are often swollen (regional lymphadenopathy). When the mother yaw heals, a light-colored scar remains.

    What are developmental stages in the course of yaws?

    Yaws has four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. The primary stage is the appearance of the mother yaw. Patients with yaws develop recurring ("secondary") lesions and more swollen lymph nodes. This represents the secondary stage. These secondary lesions may be painless like the mother yaw or they may be filled with pus, burst, and ulcerate. The affected child often experiences malaise (feels poorly) and anorexia (loss of appetite). The latent stage occurs when the disease symptoms abate, although an occasional lesion may occur. In the tertiary stage, yaws can destroy areas of the skin, bones, and joints and deform them. The palms of the hands and soles of the feet tend to become thickened and painful (crab yaws).

    How is yaws diagnosed?

    Yaws is suspected in any child who has the characteristic clinical features and lives in an area where the disease is common. With increasing travel, a child once in the tropics may carry the disease to a more temperate area of the world.

    Laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis is by blood serum tests (for example, RPR or rapid plasma reagent test, VDRL test or venereal disease research laboratory test, TPHA or Treponema pallidum hemagglutination test, FTA-ABS or fluorescent treponema antibody absorption), but most frequently the diagnosis is made on clinical findings. The reason that T. pallidum serum tests are used is that the spirochetes are so closely related, they have similar antigens on their surfaces so that T. pallidum and T. pertenue are cross-reactive (detected by the same serological tests). Special (dark-field) examination under the microscope in which technicians can actually see the spirochete bacterium is also used to help diagnose yaws. The lesions (both the mother yaw and the secondary lesions) usually have many T. pertenue organisms that can be visualized with dark-field examination of lesion scrapings. On a typical Gram stain (a procedure for identifying bacteria when viewed microscopically), the organisms are considered to be Gram-negative but stain so poorly and are so small and thin, the Gram stain often does not reveal the organisms; hence the use of the dark-field examination. Other tests that detect spirochetes such as a silver stain or electron microscopy are used mainly by research scientists.

    How is yaws treated?

    Treatment of yaws is simple and highly effective. Penicillin G benzathine given IM (intramuscularly) can cure the disease in the primary, secondary, and usually in the latent phase. Penicillin V can be given orally for about seven to 10 days, but this route is less reliable than direct injection. Anyone allergic to penicillin can be treated with another antibiotic, usually erythromycin, doxycycline, or tetracycline. Tertiary yaws, which occurs in about 10% of untreated patients five to 10 years after initially getting the disease, is not contagious. The tertiary yaws patient is treated for the symptoms of the chronic conditions (altered or destroyed areas in bones, joints, cartilage, and soft tissues) that develop as a result of the infection. There is no vaccine for yaws.

    Why is yaws a serious problem?

    Yaws is a major public-health threat in the tropics. Tropical regions in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania are all at continuing risk for yaws. A high percentage of children in such areas can be infected. Transmission of the disease is facilitated by overcrowding and poor hygiene, and yaws tends to be more prevalent in poor areas. In addition to making young children sick, approximately 10% of untreated children develop into young adults with deformities that are severely debilitating in the tertiary-yaws phase. For example, some patients develop destructive ulcerations of the nasopharynx, palate and nose (termed gangosa), painful skeletal deformities, especially in the legs (termed saber shins), and other soft-tissue changes (gummas, inflammatory cell infiltration). See the second and third references in More Information section (listed below) for images of patients with yaws.

    Yaws can be completely eradicated from an area by giving penicillin or another appropriate antibiotics to everyone in the population. This may, unfortunately, cost more than a poor country can afford. From 1950-1970, a worldwide effort to eradicate yaws was begun and made progress in reducing the approximately 50 million worldwide cases; after its end, yaws has seen a resurgence. In the 1990s, attempts to eliminate yaws started again, with limited success as the effort is not worldwide or coordinated but done by individual countries. The WHO (World Health Organization) in 2007 reported about 2.5 million cases worldwide but freely admits their data is faulty, as most countries do not calculate the prevalence of yaws. WHO estimates that about 460,000 new cases of yaws occur each year.

    How does yaws begin and spread?

    Yaws begins when T. pertenue penetrates the skin at a site where skin was scraped, cut, or otherwise compromised. In most cases, T. pertenue is transmitted from person to person. At the entrance site, a painless bump lesion, or bump, arises within two to eight weeks and grows. The initial lesion is referred to as the mother yaw. The lymph nodes in the area of the mother yaw are often swollen (regional lymphadenopathy). When the mother yaw heals, a light-colored scar remains.

    What are developmental stages in the course of yaws?

    Yaws has four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. The primary stage is the appearance of the mother yaw. Patients with yaws develop recurring ("secondary") lesions and more swollen lymph nodes. This represents the secondary stage. These secondary lesions may be painless like the mother yaw or they may be filled with pus, burst, and ulcerate. The affected child often experiences malaise (feels poorly) and anorexia (loss of appetite). The latent stage occurs when the disease symptoms abate, although an occasional lesion may occur. In the tertiary stage, yaws can destroy areas of the skin, bones, and joints and deform them. The palms of the hands and soles of the feet tend to become thickened and painful (crab yaws).

    How is yaws diagnosed?

    Yaws is suspected in any child who has the characteristic clinical features and lives in an area where the disease is common. With increasing travel, a child once in the tropics may carry the disease to a more temperate area of the world.

    Laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis is by blood serum tests (for example, RPR or rapid plasma reagent test, VDRL test or venereal disease research laboratory test, TPHA or Treponema pallidum hemagglutination test, FTA-ABS or fluorescent treponema antibody absorption), but most frequently the diagnosis is made on clinical findings. The reason that T. pallidum serum tests are used is that the spirochetes are so closely related, they have similar antigens on their surfaces so that T. pallidum and T. pertenue are cross-reactive (detected by the same serological tests). Special (dark-field) examination under the microscope in which technicians can actually see the spirochete bacterium is also used to help diagnose yaws. The lesions (both the mother yaw and the secondary lesions) usually have many T. pertenue organisms that can be visualized with dark-field examination of lesion scrapings. On a typical Gram stain (a procedure for identifying bacteria when viewed microscopically), the organisms are considered to be Gram-negative but stain so poorly and are so small and thin, the Gram stain often does not reveal the organisms; hence the use of the dark-field examination. Other tests that detect spirochetes such as a silver stain or electron microscopy are used mainly by research scientists.

    How is yaws treated?

    Treatment of yaws is simple and highly effective. Penicillin G benzathine given IM (intramuscularly) can cure the disease in the primary, secondary, and usually in the latent phase. Penicillin V can be given orally for about seven to 10 days, but this route is less reliable than direct injection. Anyone allergic to penicillin can be treated with another antibiotic, usually erythromycin, doxycycline, or tetracycline. Tertiary yaws, which occurs in about 10% of untreated patients five to 10 years after initially getting the disease, is not contagious. The tertiary yaws patient is treated for the symptoms of the chronic conditions (altered or destroyed areas in bones, joints, cartilage, and soft tissues) that develop as a result of the infection. There is no vaccine for yaws.

    Why is yaws a serious problem?

    Yaws is a major public-health threat in the tropics. Tropical regions in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania are all at continuing risk for yaws. A high percentage of children in such areas can be infected. Transmission of the disease is facilitated by overcrowding and poor hygiene, and yaws tends to be more prevalent in poor areas. In addition to making young children sick, approximately 10% of untreated children develop into young adults with deformities that are severely debilitating in the tertiary-yaws phase. For example, some patients develop destructive ulcerations of the nasopharynx, palate and nose (termed gangosa), painful skeletal deformities, especially in the legs (termed saber shins), and other soft-tissue changes (gummas, inflammatory cell infiltration). See the second and third references in More Information section (listed below) for images of patients with yaws.

    Yaws can be completely eradicated from an area by giving penicillin or another appropriate antibiotics to everyone in the population. This may, unfortunately, cost more than a poor country can afford. From 1950-1970, a worldwide effort to eradicate yaws was begun and made progress in reducing the approximately 50 million worldwide cases; after its end, yaws has seen a resurgence. In the 1990s, attempts to eliminate yaws started again, with limited success as the effort is not worldwide or coordinated but done by individual countries. The WHO (World Health Organization) in 2007 reported about 2.5 million cases worldwide but freely admits their data is faulty, as most countries do not calculate the prevalence of yaws. WHO estimates that about 460,000 new cases of yaws occur each year.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Treatment of yaws is simple and highly effective. Penicillin G benzathine given IM (intramuscularly) can cure the disease in the primary, secondary, and usually in the latent phase. Penicillin V can be given orally for about seven to 10 days, but this route is less reliable than direct injection. Anyone allergic to penicillin can be treated with another antibiotic, usually erythromycin, doxycycline, or tetracycline. Tertiary yaws, which occurs in about 10% of untreated patients five to 10 years after initially getting the disease, is not contagious. The tertiary yaws patient is treated for the symptoms of the chronic conditions (altered or destroyed areas in bones, joints, cartilage, and soft tissues) that develop as a result of the infection. There is no vaccine for yaws.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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