JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
REVIEW
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The endemic treponematoses.

The agents of human treponematoses include four closely related members of the genus Treponema: three subspecies of Treponema pallidum plus Treponema carateum. T. pallidum subsp. pallidum causes venereal syphilis, while T. pallidum subsp. pertenue, T. pallidum subsp. endemicum, and T. carateum are the agents of the endemic treponematoses yaws, bejel (or endemic syphilis), and pinta, respectively. All human treponematoses share remarkable similarities in pathogenesis and clinical manifestations, consistent with the high genetic and antigenic relatedness of their etiological agents. Distinctive features have been identified in terms of age of acquisition, most common mode of transmission, and capacity for invasion of the central nervous system and fetus, although the accuracy of these purported differences is debated among investigators and no biological basis for these differences has been identified to date. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially set a goal for yaws eradication by 2020. This challenging but potentially feasible endeavor is favored by the adoption of oral azithromycin for mass treatment and the currently focused distribution of yaws and endemic treponematoses and has revived global interest in these fascinating diseases and their causative agents.

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