Research Article: Targeted Treatment of Yaws With Household Contact Tracing: How Much Do We Miss?

Date Published: April 13, 2018

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Author(s): Louise Dyson, Michael Marks, Oliver M Crook, Oliver Sokana, Anthony W Solomon, Alex Bishop, David C W Mabey, T Déirdre Hollingsworth.


Yaws is a disabling bacterial infection found primarily in warm and humid tropical areas. The World Health Organization strategy mandates an initial round of total community treatment (TCT) with single-dose azithromycin followed either by further TCT or active case-finding and treatment of cases and their contacts (the Morges strategy). We sought to investigate the effectiveness of the Morges strategy. We employed a stochastic household model to study the transmission of infection using data collected from a pre-TCT survey conducted in the Solomon Islands. We used this model to assess the proportion of asymptomatic infections that occurred in households without active cases. This analysis indicated that targeted treatment of cases and their household contacts would miss a large fraction of asymptomatic infections (65%–100%). This fraction was actually higher at lower prevalences. Even assuming that all active cases and their households were successfully treated, our analysis demonstrated that at all prevalences present in the data set, up to 90% of (active and asymptomatic) infections would not be treated under household-based contact tracing. Mapping was undertaken as part of the study “Epidemiology of Yaws in the Solomon Islands and the Impact of a Trachoma Control Programme,” in September–October 2013.

Partial Text

Yaws, caused by Treponema pallidum pertenue, is targeted for eradication by 2020 (1). In 2012 the World Health Organization launched the Morges strategy for yaws eradication. This strategy is based on an initial round of total community treatment (TCT, often referred to for other diseases as mass drug administration) with azithromycin. The initial round of TCT is followed by total targeted treatment (TTT), consisting of case-finding surveys, with treatment of identified cases and their contacts (2). A number of studies have now demonstrated that implementation of this strategy can significantly reduce the prevalence of yaws at the community level (3, 4).

To assess the relative importance of infection within the household to infection in the general population, we employed a household model. Household models take account of the increased risk of transmission between individuals sharing a home by explicitly including different infection rates within the home and outside. These models vary in complexity according to the level of detail required to accurately model infection transmission and to answer the questions considered. The most complex models investigate disease transmission on highly resolved social networks (9). However gathering data on the network of contacts present within a village, in addition to disease status, is rarely achievable. Household models instead provide a tradeoff between level of detail and the availability of data, by using measurable household structures as a surrogate for the most important elements of a full transmission network. In addition, household-level treatment strategies may be more easily implemented than full contact tracing. Theoretical treatments have been undertaken for the susceptible-infectious-recovered models, deriving the final size of an epidemic (10). More recently Kinyanjui et al. (11) investigated the information content of household-stratified data, with the aim of designing studies to collect data to calibrate household models. Household models have been used to analyze influenza epidemics (12) and determine vaccination strategies for future influenza pandemics (13–15). Techniques for quantifying the impact of such an influenza pandemic have also been examined using data that could be gathered at the household level, early in a pandemic (16). Household-level targeting strategies have also been investigated for trachoma using a susceptible-infectious-susceptible model of infection (17), leading to the conclusion that the transmission rate within households is higher than that within the community.

To our knowledge, this is the first study to attempt to explore the role of both within-household and between-household transmission of yaws, and provides important information to guide yaws eradication efforts. Relapses of asymptomatic, infected individuals are a major driver of reemergence of yaws following initial control efforts (7), and obtaining adequate coverage of these individuals is therefore vital if yaws eradication is to be a success. There is currently limited understanding of the spatial and social interactions between clinical and asymptomatic cases of yaws in the community. A key finding of this study was that treatment of household contacts appears to provide only limited coverage of asymptomatic, infected individuals. Currently, the Morges strategy defines a contact as a person who has close and frequent contact with the infected person and is a member of the household, a classmate, or a close playmate as identified by the contact (2), but this definition is not based on any empirical data. While we have not directly addressed schools as sources of transmission, our data suggest that a broader definition of contacts may be necessary to achieve high coverage of asymptomatic, infected cases.




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