Bejel in Cuba: molecular identification of Treponema pallidum subsp endemicum in patients diagnosed with venereal syphilis

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Year of publication 2018
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Clinical Microbiology and Infection
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Medicine

Keywords Bejel; Cuba; Diagnosis; Molecular typing; Treponema pallidum subsp endemicum
Description Objectives: Bejel, caused by Treponema pallidum subsp. endemicum (TEN), was until now considered as a non-venereal disease endemic in areas with hot and dry climates. This study has identified TEN in clinical samples from Cuban patients previously diagnosed with syphilis. Methods: We performed sequencing-based molecular typing on 92 samples from Cuban individuals diagnosed with syphilis. Moreover, to differentiate T. pallidum subspecies, multi-locus sequence analysis (MLSA) was designed and was applied to suspicious samples. Results: Nine samples, from six patients, had a nucleotide sequence similarity (at all typing loci) to the Bosnia A genome, which is the infectious agent of bejel. Additionally, MLSA clearly supported a TEN classification for the treponemal samples. Clinical and epidemiological data from the six patients also suggested sexual transmission of bejel as well as the endemicity of this rare treponematosis in Cuba. Conclusions: Molecular identification of Treponema pallidum subsp. endemicum, the agent of bejel, in Cuban patients diagnosed with syphilis indicates the clear limitations of a diagnosis based exclusively on serology, geographical occurrence, clinical symptoms and anamnestic data. This finding has important implications for Global Public Health Systems, including paradigm changes regarding the location of endemic outbreaks, clinical aspects and transmission of this neglected disease. (C) 2018 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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