Syphilis Medical Condition
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis is the earliest and most transmissible stages of syphilis. Syphilis can cause serious health problems if not adequately treated. The nation is facing an increase in syphilis rates among both men and women in every region of the country, especially in gay and bisexual men.
How common is syphilis?
In 2018, there were 115,045 new diagnoses of syphilis compared to about 38,739 of HIV infection and 583,405 of gonorrhea. Of the syphilis cases, 35,063 were P&S syphilis. The majority of the cases occurred among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM accounted for 77.6% of all P&S syphilis cases among males in which sex of sex partner was known and 64.3% of P&S syphilis cases among men or women with information about sex of sex partner. However, in recent years, the rate of P&S syphilis has been increasing among MSM as well as heterosexual men and women.
Syphilis and HIV
In the United States, approximately half of men who have sex with men (MSM) with syphilis were also living with HIV. MSM who are HIV-negative and diagnosed with P&S syphilis are more likely to be infected with HIV in the future. Genital sores caused by syphilis also make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually.
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of syphilis when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected. However, a syphilis sore outside of the area covered by a latex condom can still allow transmission.
Because chancres can be hidden in the vagina, rectum, or mouth, it may not be obvious that a sex partner has syphilis. Unless a person knows that their sex partners have been tested and treated, they may be at risk of being infected or re-infected by an untreated partner
The best way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Partner-based interventions include partner notification, is a critical component in preventing the spread of syphilis. Sexual partners of infected patients should be considered at risk and provided treatment immediately
The definitive method for diagnosing syphilis is visualizing the Treponema pallidum bacterium via darkfield microscopy. Home self-tests kits are also available but not often reliable. These tests are simple, inexpensive, and are often used for screening.