For the First Time in History Citizens Can Help Eradicate an Infectious Disease

For the First Time in History Citizens Can Help Eradicate an Infectious Disease

09.12.2016

The exposed population comprises some 40 million people who live in the 13 countries

Ordinary citizens, for the first time, have a unique opportunity to make a contribution to the eradication of an infectious disease from our planet. The disease is yaws, an infection for which ISGlobal researcher Oriol Mitjà has found a simple and affordable cure.

For the first time ever, global eradication of a disease will be supported by ordinary citizens

Yaws is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium (subspecies pertenue), which mainly affects children aged between 1 and 15 years, causing ulcers on the arms and legs. If the infection is not treated in time, the bacteria can penetrate the bones, causing severe pain, inflammation and permanent disfigurement. The exposed population comprises some 40 million people who live in the 13 countries where the disease is endemic in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.

Using a single dose of azithromycin to treat the disease, it is possible to put an end to yaws forever

Today, the hope is that this infectious disease will be history by 2020. For the first time ever, global eradication of a disease will be supported by ordinary citizens through a fund-raising campaign organised by ISGlobal.

“Only one human disease has been eradicated since the invention of antibiotics, and that was smallpox. Yaws could be the second infectious disease that we can eradicate completely” explains Mitjà ”and our generation has a responsibility towards those affected.” Using a single dose of azithromycin to treat the disease, it is possible to put an end to yaws forever at a cost of about one euro per person, including the price of the pill, its distribution and all other costs.

This study will provide impetus for the global strategy that aims to eradicate the disease by 2020

The team led by Mitjà will administer mass treatment of single-dose erythromycin to 100,000 people in a province in Papua New Guinea. It is hoped that this study will provide impetus for the global strategy that aims to eradicate the disease by 2020. To make this possible, citizens can now participate by donating to the yaws eradication fundraising campaign on ISGlobal’s website.

The discovery of the single-dose treatment for yaws by Mitjà’s team is a great story about the power of science and the value of R&D as a tool in development cooperation. Now, anybody who wants to can collaborate in the total eradication of yaws. To donate, click here.

In 2015, yaws and Mitjà’s discovery were the subject of a documentary film entitled Where the Roads End produced by Broadcaster, a coproduction with TV3 and TVE.