Catalan scientists find the key to eradicate Pian’s disease

The prestigious medical journal ‘The Lancet’ publishes findings from Barcelona’s CRESIB researchers who work in Papua New Guinea. The study has found a an oral treatment for Pian’s disease, also known as Yaws. The treatment could lead to the total eradication of the illness.

CNA / Natàlia Capdevila

January 24, 2012 09:15 PM

Barcelona (ACN). – Catalan scientists have found the key to eradicating Pian’s disease, according to research results published in prestigious medical journal ‘The Lancet’. Scientists from the Barcelona International Health Research Center (CRESIB), linked to the city's Hospital Clínic, have proven the efficiency of antimicrobial oral treatment to the Pian’s disease, also known as Yaws. Just one shot of azithromycin antibiotic against that tropical disease has been shown to be working to cure a condition until now treated with penicillin injections. The possibility of oral treatment eases the way to the definitive eradication of Yaws. This means that it would become the second most eradicated infection on our planet.

A study lead by Catalan doctors

These published results can be found in a clinical essay produced at the Lihir Medical Center in Papua New Guinea, under the leadership of two Catalan doctors: Oriol Mitjà, a specialist in infectious diseases, and  a pediatrician specialised in tropical medicine.

What is the Pian’s disease?

Pian’s disease, or Yaws, is a forgotten tropical disease that has recently re-emerged in poor communities in Africa, Asia and South America, after the eradications trials carried out in the 1950s by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a chronic disease –similar to syphilis– transmitted by contact and mainly affecting the skin and bones of a child, producing long-term terrible malformations. In 1990 it has been estimated Pian’s affected more than 2.5 million children living in tropical areas in Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania, and that nearly 50 million people live in risk areas.

Azithromycin is an antibiotic used in infections such as the blindness caused by trachoma and according to paediatrician Quique Bassat “these research results mean one essential step forward for Yaws’ control and a new therapeutic alternative which could be easily incorporated in massive medication campaigns. These changes may allow us to eliminate Pian’s throughout the world”.

A 96% efficiency rate

250 children between six months and 15 years old have taken part in the research project, with an efficiency rate of 96% from the cases treated by azithromycin and 93% from those treated with penicillin. After looking at results, the WHO has called for a technical meeting in which is expected to adopt officially the new treatment. In the same way, it has run a new investigation which will be the previous step for starting a world disease eradication campaign led by the WHO.