Yaws Resurgence: WHO Reports Rise in Cases

Yaws, a chronic skin infection that primarily affects children under 15 years of age in poor and remote communities of tropical and subtropical regions [2], is making a comeback. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a rise in cases of this neglected tropical disease.

Yaws is caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum pertenue, which is closely related to the one that causes syphilis [2]. With more than a hundred thousand children worldwide affected by this disease [3], it is imperative to raise awareness about this resurgence and take necessary measures to combat it.

Yaws Resurgence: WHO Reports Rise in Cases
Yaws primarily affects children under 15 years of age in poor and remote communities of tropical and subtropical regions.

How does yaws get transmitted?

Yaws is transmitted through direct contact with the skin lesions of an infected person, usually through minor injuries. The incubation period ranges from 9 to 90 days, with an average of 21 days [3]. The first sign of infection is a papilloma that develops into an ulcer. The ulcer heals spontaneously, but the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body and cause secondary yellow lesions that may appear months later [3].

Yaws can be easily cured with a single oral dose of an inexpensive antibiotic called azithromycin [3]. However, many people who are infected with yaws do not have access to health services or diagnosis, and may not be aware of their condition. Moreover, yaws can sometimes be confused with other skin diseases due to the lack of knowledge, so it is important to have accurate and rapid diagnostic tools that can detect yaws in the field. Contact Artron to learn more about our rapid infectious disease test kits.

Yaws infection spreads around the world

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 15 countries currently known to be endemic for yaws, mostly in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands. In the year 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) received reports of 87,877 suspected cases of yaws from 11 different countries [3]. However, only 346 of these cases were confirmed and they were reported from 7 countries [3]. The majority of these confirmed cases were reported from the Western Pacific Region, specifically from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu [3]. The following year, in 2021, the number of reported suspected yaws cases increased to 123,866 from 13 countries [3]. Out of these, 1,102 cases were confirmed from 9 countries [3]. These numbers indicate that yaws is still a public health problem in many parts of the world and that there is a need for more surveillance and prevention efforts.

Yaws Resurgence: WHO Reports Rise in Cases
Many people who are infected with yaws do not have access to health services or diagnosis, and may not be aware of their condition.

Yaws disease was nearly eliminated in the 1950s – 1960s

Yaws is a disease that can be eliminated, as humans are the only reservoir of the bacteria and there is an effective treatment available. In fact, yaws was almost eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s, when a global campaign led by WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) treated more than 300 million people with penicillin injections and reduced the prevalence of yaws by 95% [4]. However, the campaign was interrupted due to premature integration of activities and weak healthcare systems [4], which re-emerged in some areas where it had been controlled.

Today, yaws is a forgotten tropical skin disease that still affects hundreds of thousands of children and adults in some of the poorest and most neglected regions of the world. It is a disease that causes pain, but also a disease that can be prevented and treated.

Challenges and progress in the coming years

WHO has made significant progress in eradicating yaws, including starting total community treatment and conducting training of health workers in Congo and Central African Republic [1]. However, there are still challenges that need to be addressed, such as improving access to rapid diagnostic tests and strengthening surveillance in all countries [1]. It is important to continue to support the WHO’s efforts to eradicate yaws and to raise awareness about this neglected tropical disease.

At Artron, we have been providing infectious disease rapid test kits to governments and distributors around the world to support healthcare. We also supply the critical components required for the assembly of lateral flow tests that are fully customizable to a business’ needs. Contact our representatives today at info@artronlab.com to learn more about our test kits and services.

[1] Global report on neglected tropical diseases 2023. (2023, January 29). World Health Organization. https://iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/365729/9789240067295-eng.pdf?sequence=1
[2] Md Alwi, N., Muhamad, R., Ishak, A., & Wan Abdullah, W. N. H. (2021). Yaws: The forgotten tropical skin disease. Malaysian family physician : the official journal of the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia, 16(3), 104–107. https://doi.org/10.51866/cr1275
[3] World Health Organization: WHO. (2023, January 12). Yaws. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/yaws
[4] World Health Organization: WHO. (2018, January 29). Yaws eradication: global experts meet after signature of medicine donation agreement. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news/item/29-01-2018-yaws-eradication-global-experts-meet-after-signature-of-medicine-donation-agreement

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