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Yaws is a chronic illness which first affects the skin, and then affects the bones.


Yaws tends to strike children, particularly between the ages of two and five. It is common in areas where poverty and overcrowding interfere with good hygiene practices. The most common locations are in rural areas throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and in locations bordering the equator in the Americas.

Causes and symptoms

Yaws is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium (spirochete) called Treponema pertenue. This bacterium belongs to the same family as the bacterium that causes syphilis.
Yaws is passed among people by direct skin contact. It requires some kind of a scratched or insect bitten area in order for the bacteria to actually settle in and cause infection. An injured spot on the leg is the most common part of the body through which the bacteria enter. Young children, who are constantly bumping themselves in play, who wear little clothing, who do not wash their hands often, and who may frequently put their hands in their mouths, are particularly susceptible.
The first symptom of yaws occurs three to four weeks after acquiring the bacteria. The area where the bacteria originally entered the skin becomes a noticeable bump (papule). The papule grows larger and develops a punched-out center (ulcer), covered with a yellow crust. Lymph nodes in the area may become swollen and tender. This first papule may take as long as six months to heal. Secondary soft, gummy growths then appear on the face, arms and legs, and buttocks. These soft, tumor-like masses may grow on the soles of the feet, causing the patient to walk in an odd and characteristic fashion on the sides of his or her feet (nicknamed "crab yaws"). More destructive tumors may then disrupt the bones of the face, the jaw, and the lower leg. Ulcers around the nose and on the face may be very mutilating.


Samples taken from the first papules may be examined using a technique called dark-field microscopy. This often allows the spirochetes to be identified. They may also be identified in fluid withdrawn from swollen lymph nodes. Various tests can also be run on blood samples to determine if an individual is producing antibodies (special immune cells) which are specifically made in response to the presence of these spirochetes.


A single penicillin injection in a muscle is sufficient to completely end the disease.


Without treatment, yaws is a terribly disfiguring chronic illness. With appropriate treatment, the progression of the disease can be completely halted.


For a time, the World Health Organization (WHO) was working to totally eradicate yaws, just as smallpox was successfully eradicated. This has not occurred, however. WHO continues to work to identify and respond to outbreaks quickly, in an effort to at least slow the spread of yaws.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1600 Clifton Rd., NE, Atlanta, GA 30333. (800) 311-3435, (404) 639-3311. http://www.cdc.gov.

Key terms

Papule — A raised bump on the skin.
Ulcer — A punched-out, irritated pit on the skin.


a highly infectious disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pertenue. It was once common in tropical and subtropical regions of the world such as equatorial Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Indonesia and nearby islands. However, programs of the World Health Organization have now reduced its incidence. Called also frambesia.
Transmission and Symptoms. Yaws is transmitted by direct contact. The first symptom, appearing usually about a month after exposure, is a single granulomatous lesion, an inflammatory but painless elevation of the skin. Called the “mother yaw,” this soon ulcerates. Open, oozing sores appear a few weeks later on the hands, feet, face, scalp, and trunk. Eventually, after several years, the disease causes tissue destruction, bone changes, and shortening of the fingers or toes, in a cycle that has a resemblance to leprosy and is sometimes mistaken for it.

The causative organism of yaws is closely related to that of syphilis, and both diseases give a positive result on the wassermann test. However, yaws is not primarily spread by coitus and is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease.
Treatment and Prevention. Effective treatment is by antibiotics, particularly penicillin. Unsanitary living conditions help spread the disease, and public health initiatives are ongoing.


An infectious tropical disease caused by Treponema pertenue and characterized by the development of crusted granulomatous ulcers on the extremities; may involve bone, but, unlike syphilis, does not produce central nervous system or cardiovascular pathology.
See also: nonvenereal syphilis.
[of Caribbean origin; similar to Calinago yaya, the disease]


(yawz) an endemic infectious tropical disease caused by Treponema pertenue, usually affecting persons under 15 years of age, spread by direct contact with skin lesions or by contaminated fomites. It is initially manifested by the appearance of a papilloma at the site of inoculation; this heals, leaving a scar, and is followed by crops of generalized granulomatous lesions that may relapse repeatedly. There may be bone and joint involvement.


pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
A highly contagious tropical disease that chiefly affects children, caused by the spirochete Treponema pertenue and characterized by raspberrylike sores, especially on the hands, feet, and face. Also called frambesia.


Etymology: Afr, yaw, raspberry,
a chronic nonvenereal infection caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue, transmitted by direct contact. Yaws has been classified into four stages.
1 primary: the initial lesion is observed.
2 secondary stage: multiple lesions due to desemination of spirochetes.
3 latent stage: this stage is asymptomatic; however, relapse of lesions may occur.
4 tertiary stage: bone joint and soft tissue deformities may occur at this stage, and lesions are not contagious at this point. It is characterized by chronic, ulcerating sores anywhere on the body but usually on the legs, with eventual tissue and bone destruction, leading to crippling if untreated. The sores are yellowish or reddish tumors that in shape and appearance often resemble currants, strawberries, or raspberries. It is a disease of unsanitary living conditions and may be effectively treated with penicillin G. All serological tests for syphilis may be positive in yaws. The infection may afford protection against syphilis. Also called bouba, buba, frambesia, framboesia, parangi, patek, pian. Compare bejel, pinta, syphilis.


An infectious tropical disease caused by Treponema pertenue and characterized by the development of crusted granulomatous ulcers on the extremities; may involve bone, but, unlike syphilis, does not cause central nervous system or cardiovascular damage.
Synonym(s): boubas, bubas, frambesia, granuloma tropicum, pian, rupia (2) .
[of Caribbean origin; similar to Calinago word yaya, the disease]


A disease of underdeveloped areas caused by a SPIROCHAETE of the genus Treponema identical to that causing SYPHILIS. Yaws is not, however, a sexually transmitted disease. It is acquired in childhood and is spread by direct contact. Initially, an itchy, red, warty patch appears at the site of infection. This is teeming with spirochaetes and scratching leads to further patches arising elsewhere on the skin. These, and secondarily appearing patches, heal, but, as in syphilis, a more serious tertiary stage occurs several years later. This features deep skin ulcers with much tissue destruction, bone changes and leprosy-like deformity. Yaws is easily treated with antibiotics such as penicillin or tetracycline. Mass treatment campaigns have been effective but have been followed by a sharp rise in the incidence of venereal syphilis, possibly reflecting a general decline in immunity.


M., 19th century Dutch army surgeon in Java.
Charlouis disease - an infectious tropical disease caused by Treponema pertenue and characterized by the development of crusted granulomatous ulcers on the extremities. Synonym(s): yaws


infectious tropical disease, characterized by crusted granulomatous limb lesions


Infectious disease caused by Treponema pertenue and characterized by development of crusted granulomatous ulcers on extremities; may involve bone, but, unlike syphilis, does not affect central nervous or cardiovascular pathology systems.
[of Caribbean origin; similar to Calinago word yaya, the disease]
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a bottom wando, and a gown buba riga, while the Yoroba call a top buba, a bottom sokoto, and a gown agbada.
A]si como hay males contagiosos que frisan y simbolizan mas con unos sujetos y complexiones que con otras, por la semejanza que con ellos tienen, de la misma suerte, las bubas tienen esta propiedad o amistad de conservarse y hallarse siempre en sujetos sucios y llenos de inmundicia, por el cual respeto vemos de ordinario, hallarse y comenzar este mal por negros, indios, mulatos y gente que tiene mezcla de la tierra, porque todos estos, por la mayor parte viven con poca limpieza y recato, y por la misma razon veremos que siempre el dicho mal comienza por las partes mas sucias e inmundas del cuerpo humano, y siempre se viene a pegar de unos en otros, por la mayor parte por via de torpes, sucios e inmundos actos, aunque tambien se pega por otras vias [.
Afterward, Duke coach Vic Bubas said, ``We can understand why UCLA was No.
WILLIAMS: We played against North Carolina and Duke at Maryland, and both Dean Smith and Vic Bubas pressed and ran multiple situations at us, which weren't very popular back then.
Los versos del poema de Valle pasan revista jocosa y grotesca a los estragos del llamado mal de bubas, en estrecha relacion con el negocio de la prostituta y su deseo de recuperar la lozania que le permitiese continuar sus ganancias.
Five coaches have both played and coached In The Final Four - Vic Bubas (NC State player, Duke coach), Dick Harp (Kansas player and coach), Bob Knight (Ohio State player, Indiana coach), Bones McKinney (North Carolina player, Wake Forest coach), and Dean Smith (Kansas player, North Carolina coach).