Occurrence of congenital, cardiovascular, visceral, neurologic, and neuro-ophthalmologic complications in late yaws: A theme for future research
Late lesions of yaws are thought to be limited to skin, bones and joints, without congenital, visceral, or central nervous system (CNS) involvement. However, the treponemes isolated from patients with yaws, endemic syphilis, and venereal syphilis are genetically identical subspecies of Treponema pallidum. The controversy surrounding distinctions between syphilis and yaws is presented in its historical context, and reports of congenital, visceral, and CNS complications of yaws are reviewed. Isolation of treponemes from aqueous humor, as well as CSF abnormalities in 24.9% of 902 patients with yaws, indicate the existence of CNS involvement. The high prevalence of tropical myeloneuropathies of unknown origin discovered in areas of previous treponemal endemicity, particularly in Jamaica and Colombia, may represent late complications of yaws. Careful analysis of the collected evidence indicates that potential sequelae of yaws include congenital, visceral, and tertiary CNS lesions identical to those of venereal syphilis. The current worldwide resurgence of endemic treponematoses provides an unparalleled opportunity to settle conclusively questions still unanswered regarding the natural history of these infections.