Scientists at the German Primate Center describe a new transmission path of a tropical disease
Lesions on arms and legs, deformed faces – yaws is a tropical disease that infects the skin, bones and cartilage. It is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue. Mostly children in remote tropical areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific are infected.
Two flies sucking lesion exudate on a skin ulcer from a Treponema pallidum infected olive baboon (Papio anubis) at Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania.
Photo: F. Paciencia
Until recently it was assumed that the disease is only spread by direct skin contact with an infected person. An international research group led by Sascha Knauf from the German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research now published a study that suggests flies as mechanical vectors for the bacterium. The finding is of importance for currently ongoing yaws eradication campaigns (EBioMedicine 2016).
Where the roads end and only scattered villages interrupt the jungle, the area of yaws begins. In its primary stage, yaws infection causes skin lesions and if untreated progresses into severe bone and joint deformations of the extremities and face. Infection is transmitted from person-to-person by direct contact with contagious lesions. The World Health Organization (WHO) assumes that 75 to 80 per cent of the patients are under 15 years old.
Theoretically, one pill of an antibiotic would be enough to prevent children from suffering and to cure the disease that is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue. In practice however, there are many villages that do not have access to modern medicine. The WHO, for the second time, tries to eradicate yaws finally by 2020.
However, as studies by Sascha Knauf and colleagues suggest, there could be major challenges involved. The scientists have not only isolated an identical bacterium in monkeys suggesting that there is a nonhuman reservoir, they now also discovered the pathogen on flies. “The human-to-human as well as possible monkey-to-human transmission becomes a complete new dimension”, says Sascha Knauf from the German Primate Center.
Sascha Knauf and colleagues investigated 207 flies originating from two national parks in Tanzania. In both parks skin ulcerations caused by Treponema are common in wild baboons. In about 20 per cent of the wild-caught flies Treponema-DNA was found. “Our results support the possibility that flies play a role in yaws transmission”, says Sascha Knauf, first author of the publication.
The scientists want to continue their research on the topic, because it is not yet clear, whether the bacteria found in the flies are viable. “If we can confirm that the flies transmit viable bacteria and that infected monkeys act as a nonhuman reservoir, there will always be cases of yaws even if the disease is apparently eradicated due to medicine and hygienic measures”, says Knauf.
Sascha Knauf, Jane Raphael, Oriol Mitjà, Inyasi A. V. Lejora, Idrissa S. Chuma, Emmanuel K. Batamuzi, Julius D. Keyyu, Robert Fyumagwa, Simone Lüert, Charmie Godornes, Hsi Liu, Christiane Schwarz, David Smajs, Philippe Grange, Dietmar Zinner, Christian Roos, Sheila A. Lukehart (2016): Isolation of Treponema DNA from necrophagous flies in a natural ecosystem. EBioMedicine, doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.07.033, http://www.ebiomedicine.com/article/S2352-3964(16)30343-7/fulltext
Contact and notes for editors
Dr. Sascha Knauf
Tel.: +49 551 3851-259, E-mail: email@example.com
Dr. Susanne Diederich (Communication)
Tel.: +49 551 3851-359, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research conducts biological and biomedical research on and with primates in the fields of infection research, neuroscience and primate biology. In addition, it operates four field stations in the tropics and is a reference and service center for all aspects of primate research. The DPZ is one of the 88 research and infrastructure institutes of the Leibniz Association in Germany.
Dr. Susanne Diederich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife
Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.10.2016 | Process Engineering