Improving strategy to eradicate disfiguring disease

Improving strategy to eradicate disfiguring disease

 Illuminate newsletter, March 2018
March 2018

Associate Professor Alyssa Barry
Associate Professor Alyssa Barry has helped find crucial
evidence for the eradication of yaws.

An international collaboration has found crucial evidence that could improve the current World Health Organization (WHO) strategy to eradicate yaws, a chronic disfiguring and debilitating infectious disease.

The research identified relapsing, untreated infections and the emergence of antibiotic resistance as contributing to ongoing yaws infection in the community.

Yaws is a bacterial infection that mostly afflicts children and causes painful skin lesions. If left untreated, it can lead to chronic deformities and disability.

Adapted approach needed

The current WHO eradication strategy involves a single round of mass antibiotic treatment, followed by targeted treatment programs to monitor and treat symptomatic cases and their contacts.

Infectious diseases geneticist Associate Professor Alyssa Barry said the research suggested adapting the WHO approach in key areas to advance the elimination of yaws in a high-endemic community in Papua New Guinea.

“Our findings pointed to a need for multiple rounds of mass drug administration, and targeting a larger geographical area, to protect against the migration of infection in people from surrounding communities," she said.

“There was also a clear need for ongoing monitoring to prevent the spread of drug-resistant strains, following world-first evidence of antibiotic resistance in yaws bacteria."

DNA doesn’t lie

Associate Professor Barry said the forensic precision of modern genetic and genomic analysis had been essential to the study.

“This is a wonderful demonstration of how basic research can have significant influence on global disease eradication,” Associate Professor Barry said.

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