A nonvenereal form of syphilis that is endemic primarily among children in the Middle East and North Africa, characterized by mouth and skin lesions and destruction of long bone tissue, and caused by a strain of the spirochete Treponema pallidum that is transmitted by mouth-to-mouth contact or shared utensils.
Widespread use of penicillin has been responsible for reducing the number of existing cases, but the only way to eliminate bejel is by improving living and sanitation conditions and through continuing health education.
Treponema pallidum subspecies endemicum, the bacteria that causes bejel, is very closely related to the one that causes the sexually transmitted form of syphilis, but the method of transmission is different.
When traveling in areas where bejel is endemic, parents should ensure that their children avoid contact with children with lesions and avoid shared drinking and eating utensils.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has worked with many countries to prevent this and other diseases, and the number of cases of bejel has been reduced somewhat.
Bejel has many other names depending on the locality, including siti (Gambia), njovera (southern Rhodesia), therlijevo (Croatia), and frenjak (Balkans).