The man from Kerala who cured yaws in the 1930s


Two males have been on a mission in a bullockcart. Covering the hilly terrain was not straightforward in the mid-1930s when roads have been few. Moving from village to village and strolling via paddy fields and slush in the rural space of Kadakkal, now in Kollam district, practically 50 km from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, have been Dr Sankaran Govindan and his compounder Padmanabhan Pillai. Over three years they injected greater than 12,500 sufferers with drugs, to remedy them of the tropical bacterial an infection yaws that was mutilating and crippling folks.

As docs and well being staff battle COVID-19 the world over, Dr G Krishnakumar rewinds to an period when his father labored onerous to remedy the folks of Kadakkal from yaws, an an infection affecting the pores and skin, bones, and joints, that was endemic in the hilly areas of the princely state of esrtwhile Travancore, on India’s south-west coast.

A affected person of Dr Govindan’s in Kadakkal. (left) Before therapy and (proper) after the therapy  
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Special arrangement

Dr Govindan, then a younger physician in his thirties who’d graduated from Madras Medical College, took up his first posting as medical officer in 1935-36 at a authorities dispensary in Kadakkal. His father Shangu Vaidyan was the Kottaram Vaidyan (palace doctor) and he despatched his son for greater schooling to what was then Madras.

Allopathy was nonetheless an unknown system of therapy in rural Kadakkal, however the younger physician’s work, perspective, and sincerity steadily introduced him sufferers. In the predominantly agrarian space, inhabited by marginal farmers and tribes folks in the hills, Dr Govindan observed a lesion that occurred in many individuals of various age teams, particularly amongst these who lived in shut quarters. He recognized it as yaws that’s carefully associated to the bacterium that causes syphilis, although it’s not transmitted via sexual activity. It spreads via direct contact with contaminated wounds, as a substitute.

What causes Yaws

  • Yaws is a illness brought on by Treponema pallidum subsp. pertenue, a micro organism carefully associated to Treponema pallidum, which causes syphilis. The micro organism is transmitted by direct contact, acquired throughout childhood and may trigger extreme late manifestations years after preliminary an infection.

“My father began documenting the illness and its treatment in an album-cum-journal that he meticulously maintained in 1936,” Dr Krishnakumar says, gently turning the pages of two albums, crumbling with age, and talking of an period earlier than the arrival of antibiotics, when docs and compounders labored hand in hand to make medicines.

A jotting in the journal, supplemented with pictures, explains his findings and the development of the illness. He famous that the major lesion typically happens at the web site of an present ulcer or bruise, doesn’t reply to any native therapy, and persists for years. Children have been inclined to yaws, maybe due to their tender pores and skin and poor well being.

Kadakkal Government dispensary in the thirties where Dr Sankaran Govindan was appointed as medical officer

Kadakkal Government dispensary in the thirties the place Dr Sankaran Govindan was appointed as medical officer
 
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Dr Govindan discovered that wholesome youngsters with major or secondary manifestations have been capable of face up to the illness however at any level of time when their immunity was compromised, they’d fall prey to it. “The secondary manifestations sometimes appear after a period of years…. The ulcerating condition is more prolonged and extremely destructive. It makes the patient a cripple. …Bow legs are one of the characteristic features of Yaws,” he wrote.

In these days yaws was thought-about incurable. Dr Govindan discovered that Neo-Salvarsan, a drug made in Germany was discovered to be efficient in curing the illness. But he understood that this could be too expensive to deal with a big group of individuals, particularly these he handled, who have been principally underprivileged.

The man from Kerala who cured yaws in the 1930s

“That is when he read about an alternative treatment for yaws and found out that compounds of bismuth had been used in the treatment of syphilis since 1921. Immediately, he contacted his friend Narayanan Potti, then head of the department of chemistry at University College in the Thiruvananthapura,” says Dr Krishnakumar.

Professor Potti managed to synthesise and purify the sodium bismuth salt of tartaric acid for him in portions ample for mass use. He known as it Bisota. Dr Govindan and his assistants travelled from village to village injected one dose into every of these troubled by yaws. As a results of their tireless work, yaws was eradicated from Kadakkal and the surrounding areas, says a historic article printed in The Journal of the Association of Physicians India that Dr Krishnakumar wrote.

The nameplate of the new medical officer with the year given according to the Malayalam calendar

The nameplate of the new medical officer with the yr given based on the Malayalam calendar  
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

“My father had told me about this when I was a child. Now, these albums are all that remains of that momentous journey. Once the Trivandrum Medical College came up in Thiruvananthpuram, he was appointed in the department of surgery. After his retirement in 1962 as Professor of surgery in Kozhikode Medical College, he established Govidan’s Hospital in 1966,” says Krishnakumar.

He provides that so long as his father was practising, sufferers used to come back from Kadakkal for therapy. Today, Kadakkal is a city and never many bear in mind the work of its first physician.

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