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
Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences
19.07.2018 | Life Sciences