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Frambesia or “tropical syphilis” – what is it and what is dangerous

Frambesia is an infectious disease that affects the skin, cartilage and bones. It is caused by the bacterium Treponema pertenue. This is a subspecies of spirochetes belonging to the same species as Treponema pallidum – a pale spirochete, the causative agent of a sexually transmitted disease – syphilis. But unlike the latter, frambesia is not sexually transmitted, therefore it is sometimes called a type of non-venereal syphilis and is assigned to the group of treponematoses.

This disease is characteristic of tropical countries with a humid, hot climate, so its other name is tropical syphilis. Frambesia is also known as pian, tropical granuloma, tropical polypapilloma.

The disease is common in equatorial Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.

Other varieties of non-venereal syphilis, similar in manifestation, are begel (pathogen Treponema bejel) and pint (Treponema carateum).

How do they get infected with frambesia?
As mentioned above, frambesia is not a sexually transmitted disease and it is transmitted either directly from an infected person or through household items – towels, linen, etc. The causative agent, along with the liquid (which is weeping ulcers), enters the skin of a healthy person and is introduced into the body through microcracks, small cuts.

Syphilis infection occurs through household items
Another way of infection is flies, mosquitoes, midges, which in this case act as carriers of infection.

Frambesia is very contagious, the most dangerous from this point of view are patients in the early stages of the disease.

Most often, children from 3 to 15 years are affected by pianu. Additional risk factors are unsanitary conditions, non-observance of personal hygiene rules.

How does the disease progress?
There are three stages of frambesia.

The earliest is the primary stage. During the incubation period, which lasts an average of 3 weeks, the patient may experience weakness, poor health, and a slight increase in temperature. In other cases, no symptoms are manifested.

Then, at the site of introduction of the spirochete, a nodule is formed. It is very itchy and causes discomfort to the patient. Over time, the nodule grows and looks like a wart, sometimes an ulcer occurs.

As a rule, the lesion affects the skin of the hands or feet.

These formations with a diameter of up to 10 cm are painless, but with irritation they bleed easily and a greenish liquid is released from them. It contains a huge number of bacteria that are easily transmitted by contact.

Subsequently, the liquid dries, forming a crust, and after 2–4 months, the crusts fall off and everything heals without leaving any traces.

The secondary stage of frambesia develops after a few months. A rash appears on the patient’s skin – small nodules and wart formations. In the photo you can see how such rashes look like with frambesia. They spread throughout the body, sometimes mucous membranes are affected, joints become inflamed. These rashes also contain a large amount of fluid with the causative agent of the disease. Often, the soles and palms of the patient are affected by phrambesia. The skin on them thickens, crackes and hurts, which causes difficulties when walking.

Rashes with frambesia
This rash also goes away on its own within a few months. After it, spots may remain on the affected skin, dark or, conversely, white, devoid of pigment.

The tertiary stage of tropical syphilis occurs within a few years (from five or more) after, it would seem, recovery. Under the skin, nodes are formed (they are called gummas) and ulcers, which, healing, leave behind rough scars. Bones and cartilage tissue are affected and deformed. This disfigures the patient (especially if the foci are located on the face), his movements are disturbed, fractures easily occur.

Unlike venereal, in tropical syphilis, internal organs are not affected.

And although the disease does not represent a mortal danger, it often leads to disability with damage to bones and joints, and ugly scars and facial deformations cause serious psychological problems.

How to cure frambesia?
Tropical syphilis, fortunately, is quite easy to treat, although in the early stages. Antibiotics are used to get rid of the infection. As a rule, these are the same drugs as with venereal syphilis.

If therapy is started on time, in the primary or secondary stage, then the patient recovers, depending on the severity, individual characteristics of the body and the period of the disease, after one to six weeks.

Worse if this is the tertiary stage of frambesia. Then treatment takes longer, increased dosages of the antibiotic, stronger drugs are required.

To correct bone deformities, get rid of rough scars resort to surgical operations.

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