A rapid diagnostic test to identify yaws, a debilitating skin disease which affects thousands of the world’s poorest children, could reinvigorate efforts to eradicate the illness, experts say.
The molecular test, which detects yaws within 30 minutes, could allow on-the-spot diagnosis in remote regions – eliminating the need to transfer disease samples for hours or even days to high-tech laboratories for expensive tests.
Yaws is a bacterial disease which spreads through skin-to-skin contact and causes skin lesions and ulcers all over the body.
It is not fatal but if left untreated, the illness – which predominantly affects children under 15 living in hot, humid regions – leads to chronic disfigurement and disability.
“Yaws affects children living in very rural, hard to reach communities – there is a saying that where the road ends, that is where yaws begins,” said Laud Anthony Basing, biomedical engineering research graduate at Purdue University in the US, and creator of the rapid test.
“It eats into the skin, into the bones, into the cartilage, and if you do not treat it the child will grow up with deformities or disabilities,” he added.
More than 80,000 suspected cases of yaws were reported to the World Health Organization in 2018, but the real number of infections is likely to be much higher.