Yaws and other endemic treponematoses

Photo gallery of a success story

Credit: Lam Duc Hien/MSF
Dramatic results are achieved with a single dose of oral azithromycin (Congo, 2012)

In 2012, the results of studies conducted in Ghana and Papua New Guinea showed that a single dose of oral azithromycin provides the same treatment results as a single injection of benzathine penicillin. These findings have led to renewed interest in the eradication of this ancient disease.

Credit: Lam Duc Hien/MSF
Community health volunteers travel on foot through jungles and rivers to bring supplies to endemic villages (Congo, 2012)

It is said that “yaws begins where the road ends”, implying it is prevalent among populations living in remote, rural areas with no access to health care. Reaching some endemic communities to provide treatment can be a daunting task, involving walking very long distances.

Credit: Sally–Ann Ohene/WHO Office Ghana
Laboratory health worker uses a new diagnostic test during yaws survey (Ghana, 2013)

Eradication of yaws requires a good surveillance system. A new point-of-care syphilis test (DPP® Syphilis Screen & Confirm Assay) is being evaluated for use in yaws eradication campaigns.

Credit: Lam Duc Hien/MSF
Community members wait to receive azithromycin treatment in a village (Congo, 2012)

Large-scale treatment of populations in affected communities will interrupt transmission and lead to eradication of the disease.

Credit: Lam Duc Hien/MSF
A health worker examines the father and his child with multiple yaws (Congo, 2012)

During treatment campaigns, it is important for health workers to examine people and their close contacts for other symptoms associated with yaws.

Credit: Lam Duc Hien/MSF
Child being treated with paediatric azithromycin (Congo, 2012)

In the past, children would cry because of the painful injection with benzathine penicillin. Today, oral treatment makes it easier for children to take the medicine.

Credit: Oriol Mitjà
Child prepares to swallow a tablet during a yaws treatment campaign (Lihir, Papua New Guinea, 2013)

Single-dose oral azithromycin means no more painful injections with benzathine penicillin. Trained volunteers can administer the injections to affected populations without the need for qualified health personnel and nurses.

Credit: Philippe Metois/WHO Vanuatu
Children queue to receive azithromycin during a yaws treatment campaign (Vanuatu, 2013)

Almost 75% of people affected are children under 15 years, although peak incidence occurs in children between the ages 6–10. The disease gets transmitted primarily through skin contact with an infected person. Usually, a single skin lesion develops at the point of entry of the bacterium after 2-4 weeks. If left untreated, multiple lesions appear all over the body.

Last update:

27 March 2014 14:57 CET

WHO campaign photos

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