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A bacterial infection of the skin which causes red to bluish-black colored spots.


Pinta is a skin infection caused by the bacterium Treponema carateum, a relative of the bacterium which causes syphilis. The word "pinta" comes from the Spanish and means "painted." Pinta is also known as "azula" (blue), and "mal de pinto" (pinto sickness). It is one of several infections caused by different Treponema bacteria, which are called "endemic" or "non-venereal" treponematoses.
Pinta is primarily found in rural, poverty-stricken areas of northern South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The disease is usually acquired during childhood and is spread from one person to another by direct skin-to-skin contact. The bacteria enter the skin through a small cut, scratch, or other skin damage. Once inside the skin, the warmth and moisture allow the bacteria to multiply. The bacterial infection causes red, scaly lesions on the skin.

Causes and symptoms

Pinta is caused by an infection with the bacterium Treponema carateum. Persons at risk for pinta are those who live in rural, poverty-stricken, overcrowded regions of South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Symptoms of pinta occur within two to four weeks after exposure to the bacteria. The first sign of infection is a red, scaly, slowly enlarging bump on the skin. This is called the "primary lesion." The primary lesion usually appears at the site where the bacteria entered the skin. This is often on the arms, legs, or face. The smaller lesions which form around the primary lesion are called "satellite lesions." Lymph nodes located near the infected area will become enlarged, but are painless.
The second stage of pinta occurs between one and 12 months after the primary lesion stage. Many flat, red, scaly, itchy lesions called "pintids" occur either near the primary lesion, or scattered around the body. Pintid lesions progress through a range of color changes, from red to bluish-black. The skin of older lesions will become depigmented (loss of normal color).


Pinta can be diagnosed by dermatologists (doctors who specialize in skin diseases) and infectious disease specialists. The appearance of the lesions helps in the diagnosis. A blood sample will be taken from the patient's arm to test for antibodies to Treponema carateum. A scraping of a lesion will be examined under the microscope to look for Treponema bacteria. The results of these tests should be available within one to two days.


Pinta is treated with benzathine penicillin G (Bicillin), given as a single injection.


Treatment will result in a complete cure but will not undo any skin damage caused by the late stages of disease. Spread of pinta to the eyes can cause eyelid deformities.


Good personal hygiene and general health may help prevent infections. In general, avoid physical contact with persons who have skin lesions.



Mayo Clinic Online. March 5, 1998.

Key terms

Lesion — An abnormal change in skin due to disease.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a treponemal infection characterized by bizarre pigmentary changes in the skin occurring in tropical America; it is effectively treated by penicillin.
pinta fever a disease observed in northern Mexico, identical with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(pin'tă, pēn'tă),
A disease caused by a spirochete, Treponema carateum, endemic in Mexico and Central America, and characterized by a small primary papule followed by an enlarging plaque and disseminated secondary macules of varying color called pintids that finally become white.
See also: nonvenereal syphilis.
Synonym(s): azul, carate, mal del pinto
[Sp. painted]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


(pĭn′tə, pēn′tä)
A contagious skin disease prevalent in tropical America, caused by a spirochete (Treponema carateum) and marked by extreme thickening and spotty discoloration of the skin.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


A disease caused by a spirochete, Treponema carateum; characterized by a small primary papule followed by an enlarging plaque and disseminated secondary macules of varying color called pintids that finally become white. Occurs in semiarid, warm climates (such as are found in areas of Central and South America).
Synonym(s): mal del pinto.
[Sp. painted]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


A skin disorder caused by Treponema carateum an organism closely related to the spirochaete causing SYPHILIS. The disease is not sexually transmitted and is confined to underdeveloped areas of central and south America. It features a scaly, raised spot that slowly enlarges and becomes surrounded by satellite spots. Up to a year later there is a secondary stage with a widespread rash that leads to loss of skin pigment. Pinta is treated with penicillin.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
How a Pinta father ended up on Isabela remains unclear: A strong current runs the roughly 50-mile route from Pinta to Volcan Wolf, and historical accounts leave open the possibility that tortoises may have washed ashore after being dumped overboard by pirates or whalers.
The logbooks of whaling ships record crew members often loading tortoises by the dozens into bilges and cargo holds, including up to 100 Pinta tortoises at a time.
And by the early 1900s, American and British researchers had retrieved only a handful of live tortoises on Pinta, all of which were killed by the collectors or died en route to distant museums.
By the time his boat arrived, he says, a resourceful student had already found the Pinta tortoise, and the expedition's goat hunters had tethered it to a cactus so that it wouldn't disappear.
Last year, researchers announced that the northern part of Isabela was goat free, adding to earlier successes on Pinta, Santiago, and Espanola Islands.
Success in culling the goats has not only made Pinta Island safe for tortoises again but has also intensified calls for their return.
Para cuantificar la contribucion de los factores que influyen en la presencia de adultos de la mosca pinta, se estimaron los parametros de un modelo lineal mixto.
Este modelo representa el efecto aditivo lineal en los conteos de adultos de mosca pinta ADULTO de los factores a la derecha de la tilde (~), es decir, en funcion del nivel de infestacion del ano previo INFEST, las poblaciones de ninfas NINFA, la cobertura interna de maleza CBI, la cobertura de maleza en los bordes CBE, el tiempo de muestreo DJUL, la aplicacion de insecticidas APINS y entomopatogenos APENT, la precipitacion acumulada de la semana previa PPT y la temperatura promedio de la semana previa TEMP.
Especies de mosca pinta. Durante el periodo del 2 de julio al 15 de octubre, se capturaron 14623 adultos de mosca pinta y se contabilizaron 6826 ninfas.
Importancia relativa de los componentes del modelo que afectan las poblaciones de mosca pinta. En la Figura 1 se observa la distribucion del muestreo de los parametros del modelo, que toman valores aproximados entre -0.5 y 3.5.
Efecto de los factores involucrados en las poblaciones de adultos de mosca pinta
Se observa que a medida que existe mayor cobertura de maleza, la poblacion de adultos de mosca pinta aumenta.