Immunology and Pathology

Although pinta has been given experimentally to syphilitics, a high degree of cross-immunity between T. pallidum and T. pertenue seems to exist. Thus, one who has suffered nonvenereal syphilis is not only safe from another attack but is also at least partially protected against syphilis and yaws.

The pathogenic mechanisms in this and other treponemal infections are not yet fully understood. The pathogens do not kill cells, and they produce no known toxic substances. Thus it would seem that much of the pathology stems from the immune response of the host. Nonvenereal syphilis or bejel is similar to yaws in some respects, among them, juvenile acquisition, an absence of chancres, and congenital transmission. Moreover, both diseases rarely involve the cardiovascular and the central nervous systems. Yet nonvenereal syphilis resembles syphilis in its affinity for the mucous membranes, and in many of its pathological aspects. And, like syphilis, it occurs outside of the tropics. Finally, the usual serologic tests for syphilis are positive in nonvenereal syphilis.

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