On the road to the worldwide eradication of yaws, India has set an example for others to follow. No new cases of the infection have been reported in the country since 2003 and, following nil reporting of new cases for three consecutive years, the Indian government and the World Health Organisation's (WHO) South-East Asia regional office announced in 2006 that the country was free of yaws. However, an independent expert committee must verify the absence of new cases and confirm that transmission has been interrupted before India's yaws free status can be formally certified. At the beginning of October, a team of three independent experts—one of whom was the ISGlobal researcher Dr. Oriol Mitjà—travelled to India to undertake the verification process.
Between 2 and 16 October, a group of thirty specialist physicians led by the three-member WHO International Verification Team For the Eradication of Yaws visited remote tribal areas in five Indian states where yaws had in the past been endemic: Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Their task was to verify that the information provided by the Indian government, which will form the basis of the certification that the disease has indeed been eliminated, was correct and credible.
To be considered completely free of yaws a country must fulfil two criteria for three consecutive years: 1) zero reports of new cases; and 2) serological surveillance in children must yield negative results, confirming that those tested do not carry the bacteria. Two other important factors that contribute to the elimination of yaws are improvements in sanitation and water supply. In the case of India, Dr. Mitjà commented "One thing that struck us very positively was that, however remote the villages were, sanitation was good, families had soap and water, and the children were clean. Those are factors that make a big difference in a skin disease such as yaws. However the success of the Indian campaign is clearly due to an excellent and sustained surveillance system, both during and after completion of the programme."
Following their visit, the WHO International Verification Team for the Eradication of Yaws will submit a report to the WHO before the end of the year. Based on this report and the results of the verification process, it is expected that India will formally certified free of yaws by the WHO in April 2016.
The Broadcaster producer has started the filming of a documentary on Dr Oriol Mitjà's story: http://www.broadcaster.cat/pian