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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Eradicating yaws: 10/9/2018

Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health-oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

The challenges to eradicate yaws, a treatable, disfiguring, bacterial infection that occurs in 14 nations (mostly south of the equator), is described in an insightful article recently published in Science.

Specifically, Science reports that yaws impacted 50 million people in 90 countries in the 1950s. The article describes how cases began to decline once the World Health Organization began to vaccinate impacted populations with penicillin.

Science explains yaws spreads primarily through skin contact often between children. The author writes (and we quote): 'Yaws isn't fatal, but if left untreated it can disfigure the skin and bones, causing life long pain and disability' (end of quote).

However, Science notes the initial efforts to eliminate yaws fizzled in the 1970s and 1980s in some nations. The author writes (and we quote): 'Even as cases of yaws dwindled, other, deadlier diseases, including HIV/AIDS in the 1980s were becoming more urgent' (end of quote). Science continues previous treatment efforts also neglected to identify latent yaws carriers. Yaws can reactivate after several years and then, start to infect others.

Science reports the current optimism to treat yaws is based on a recent discovery that a single dose of the oral antibiotic azithromycin is an effective treatment. Some current efforts, as described in the article, are mass drug administration at six-month intervals on an island in Papua New Guinea — where all residents receive an azithromycin pill (to eliminate latent carriers).

Nevertheless, Science describes current international efforts to provide antibiotics are not well coordinated and there is little leadership to end yaws once-and-for-all — with one celebrated exception in Barcelona, Spain. Science emphasizes while international public health and philanthropic organizations do not overlook neglected diseases, most current efforts address other public health challenges, such as the elimination of polio and Guinea Worm Disease.

Although Science reports a Brazilian pharmaceutical company recently pledged to donate 153 million tablets of azithromycin, there are recent reports of antibiotic resistance among the impacted populations.

Hence, Science concludes the end of yaws remains in limbo — whether the disease persists depends on increased public awareness, attention, support, and pressure on international public health officials.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization provides an overview of yaws in the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's bacterial infections health topic page.

NLM explains antibiotic resistance in the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's bacterial infections health topic page.

Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles about bacterial infections are available in the 'journal articles' section of MedlinePlus.gov's bacterial infections health topic page. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area also are available in the 'clinical trials' section.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's bacterial infections health topic page, please type 'bacterial infections' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'bacterial infections (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages on antibiotics, infection control, and international health.

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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!