A Unitarian View of Treponematosis

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  • Ohio University, Athens, O.


The problem is largely one of interpretation and of agreement on nomenclature. The unitarian interpretation advanced herein suggests that arguments as to whether syphilis is yaws or not have no meaning when the paramount fact is grasped that both are forms of treponematosis. Diseases should be named if possible on the basis of their specific causes, which are assumed to be constant, and not on the basis of their epidemiological courses, which may fluctuate.

Once having established the disease treponematosis, caused by T. pallidum, it is reasonable and practical to divide it into its venereal and nonvenereal types if it is recognized that this classification is based upon environmental rather than etiological factors.

If syphilis is coming to mean venereal treponematosis, the same word can hardly continue to be applied to nonvenereal forms, such as yaws and pinta. The syphilologist will continue to treat venereal treponematosis called syphilis and caused by “spirocheta pallida”, and the physician in the tropics will continue to treat the various nonvenereal infections by whatever name they are known locally, but the more doctors and pathologists think in terms of the whole disease and keep the key word treponematosis in mind, the sooner will confusion be cleared.

Author Notes

M.D., D.T.M.&H.(Lond), F.A.C.P., Captain (MC), USNR.