The Quest to Eradicate Yaws

Without Oriol Mitjà, the bid to eradicate yaws likely would have faded.

Nonfatal, but disfiguring, yaws often starts with a single ulcer that can spread to more lesions, and infect joints and bones. Targeted for eradication some 60 years ago, problems with the treatment—penicillin injections—derailed the push. Then Mitjà, of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), got interested and proved that a single dose of azithromycin would do the trick.

Since then, he’s fought for resources to eradicate the disease and won WHO support but he still faces roadblocks such as cost, signs of resistance to azithromycin, and concerns that the yaws bacterium infects primates as well.


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