Podoconiosis: clinical spectrum and microscopic presentations

Wendemagegn Enbiale, Almut Böer-Auer, Bereket Amare, Kristien Verdonck, Gail Davey, Johan van Griensven, Henry J C de Vries

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BACKGROUND: Podoconiosis is a skin Neglected Tropical Disease (skin NTD) that causes lymphoedema, and affects barefooted subsistence farmers in some tropical countries. The clinical presentation and histopathologic correlates of podoconiosis have been understudied. Here, we systematically document the clinical and histopathologic spectrum of podoconiosis.

METHODS: This is a cross-sectional study in Durbete, Ethiopia from February 2018 to October 2019. Dermatologists performed a patient history, physical examination, filariasis test strip, and skin biopsy for histopathologic examination. The results were summarised and a descriptive statistical analysis and Wilcoxon rank sum test with continuity correction was done.

RESULTS: We recruited 289 patients for the study, 178 (61.6%) had stage 1 or 2 podoconiosis, and 111(38.4%) stage 3 to 5 podoconiosis. 188 (64.1%) had a family history of podoconiosis. In 251 (86.9%) patients, both legs were affected by podoconiosis and in 38 (13.1%) only one leg was affected. 220 (77.5%) patients had warty lesions, 114 (39.4%) had nodules. The median number of episodes of Acute Dermato-Lymphangio-Adenitis (ADLA) reported by the patients in the last three months was 2 (interquartile range (IQR) 1-4). Increased episodes of ADLA were significantly associated with stage 3-5 podoconiosis (P = 0.002), while burning pain in the feet was more common in stage 1 or 2 podoconiosis. Stage 3-5 disease was histopathologically characterised by epidermal and dermal thickening, verrucous acanthosis, inflammatory cell infiltrates (predominantly lymphoplasmacytic), dilated and ectatic and a reduced number of lymphatic vessels, eccrine ductal hyperplasia, and sclerosis such as thickened collagen bundles.

CONCLUSION: We provide a detailed description of the different clinical patterns, associated clinical findings and the histopathologic spectrum of podoconiosis at different stages of the disease. Our observations should serve as a guide to classifying patients with podoconiosis for prognostic assessment and treatment decision.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0010057
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number5
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Acute Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Elephantiasis/diagnosis
  • Ethiopia/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Lymphedema/therapy


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