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Pinta, yaws, and endemic syphilis

Jul 10, 1998

Will Pinta (Treponema Carateum) always be detected on a Syphilis test (Treponema Pallidum) ??

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

There are several diseases that are very similar to venereal (sexually transmitted) syphilis. However, these infections themselves are not sexually transmitted. These diseases are called pinta, yaws, and endemic syphilis.

Pinta is primarily found in isolated rural areas in the American tropics, especially in places where hygiene is generally poor. This infection is transmitted by direct and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the lesions that this disease causes. This disease is not very infectious, and often involves intimate exposure for several years before infection actually takes place. Breaks in the skin (cuts, abrasions, scratches, etc.) usually facilitates (allows) infection to take place.

Yaws is found in certain tropical areas throughout the world. This infection is primarily transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact with the exudate (fluid) that can be found oozing out of the early lesions associated with this disease.

Endemic syphilis is found in certain eastern Mediterranean and Asian countries, and certain parts of Africa as well (especially in arid/dry areas). It is found primarily in areas where hygienic conditions are poor. This infection also causes skin lesions, and is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact with these lesions. It can also be transmitted through sharing eating and drinking utensils, especially in places where there are poor hygienic conditions. Endemic syphilis is a different disease than venereal syphilis, and is not sexually transmitted.

Because pinta, yaws, and endemic syphilis are very similar to venereal syphilis, they will cause syphilis blood tests to show positive. Interpretation of syphilis blood tests are the same for these diseases, as it is for venereal syphilis. Because the symptoms of these diseases are somewhat different than venereal syphilis, trained doctors can distinguish between these diseases by a persons symptoms (but not through blood tests). For all of these diseases, when early skin lesions are present (when they are most infectious), doctors can also do tests on the lesions themselves to help make a diagnosis.

If a person does not live in any of the geographic areas mentioned above, a positive syphilis blood test alone can be used to definitively diagnose venereal syphilis. However, if a person lives in a place where pinta, yaws or endemic syphilis are normally found, syphilis blood tests are not adequate, since these tests cannot distinguish between these diseases and venereal syphilis. Doctors in these parts of the world would also have to examine a persons symptoms, in order to make a proper diagnosis.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

Mononucleosis (Mono)
STDs in the blood.

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