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What Causes Yaws Infection & How is it Treated?|Stages, Symptoms of Yaws Infection

What Is Yaws Infection?

Yaws Infection is a form of bacterial infection caused by Treponema bacteria. Yaws Infection is similar to a syphilis condition in the way that these both diseases can persist for decades at a time, although they both are two different conditions. Yaws Infection may affects children and teenagers residing in rural parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.

Yaws Infection is a condition which can quite easily be treated with antibiotics; however, it can be extremely debilitating at its peak. Since this infection targets the skin, bones, and joints and can persist for an extremely long time, it tends to cause severe disability among the affected population.

With the advancement of medical science and research progressing to cure the infection, it is estimated that there will be complete eradication by 2020 of Yaws Infection.

What Are The Different Stages Of Yaws Infection?

Yaws Infection occurs in three stages which are the primary stage, secondary stage, and latent stage.

  • Primary Stage: In this stage of Yaws Infection, the first sore or lesion develops at the entry point of the bacteria in the body
  • Secondary Stage: In this stage, the bacteria settles down and starts spreading resulting in development of many sores or lesions on the skin surface.
  • Latent Stage: This is the stage in which there is no development of any symptoms, although the sores caused previously tend to recur.

What Causes Yaws Infection?

What Causes Yaws Infection?

Yaws Infection is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue. It comes under the family of syphilis bacterium, Treponema pallidum, and is a subtype of it, although it is not necessary that an individual with Yaws Infection will have syphilis as well. Also of note, unlike syphilis, Yaws Infection is not a sexually transmitted disease. It also does not get transmitted from mother to baby at the time of birth.

The spread of the bacteria can take place through direct contact which may be skin to skin or skin to mucous membranes. The bacteria will be located on superficial layer of the skin and from there it penetrates within the skin and causes a sore at the entry point. The bacterium then spreads to various parts of the body through the blood stream and causes a variety of symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of Yaws Infection?

The symptoms of Yaws Infection affect the patient depending on the stage of the infection. During the initial phase of the infection which is also called as Early Yaws Infection, there will be only one sore at the entry point of the bacteria but as the infection spreads more sores or lesions are formed. These lesions are red in color and are quite varied in appearance. The lesions may look like a papilloma or a nodule but at times they may also look like ulcers.

These lesions are relatively nonpainful but may itch at times. There may be associated hardening of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Additionally, in the early stages of the infection there may be lymph node enlargement at multiple sites throughout the body along with fever and pain.

In the advanced stages of the infection or what is called as Late Yaws, when the bacteria is in a latent phase there will be widespread destruction of tissue right from the skin to the bones. This latent period may range anywhere from 5 to 20 years. There may also be some damage to the eyes. The skin lesions in the latent stage of Yaws Infection appear as lumps under the skin which are relatively painless. These lumps eventually ulcerate resulting in a secondary infection speeding up the tissue destruction process.

The involvement of the musculoskeletal system comes much late in the latent phase of the infection where bones start to get affected of which the facial bones and the bones of the extremities are affected the most. Eventually, there may be bone deformation and the patient literally becomes disabled due to Yaws Infection.

How is Yaws Infection Treated?

Yaws Infection is a disease process that can be easily treated by antibiotics. One single dose of penicillin would suffice for treatment for Yaws Infection in the initial stages of the infection, although a series of antibiotics may be required for latent phase of Yaws Infection. If an individual is allergic to penicillin then other antibiotics like doxycycline, erythromycin, or tetracycline can be used for treating Yaws Infection.


  1. World Health Organization (WHO) – Yaws: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/yaws
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) – Yaws Reemergence in the Democratic Republic of Congo: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7079813/
  3. Journal of Global Infectious Diseases – Yaws: A Comprehensive Review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791767/

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 28, 2023

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