What is Syphilis?
The term syphilis refers to a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. Syphilis has often been nicknamed the “great imitator” because of its many symptoms that resemble those of other diseases. Syphilis can have serious complications if left untreated, however, with prompt diagnosis and the right treatment, it is easily cured.
Based on findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of syphilis have been increasingly on the rise since 2000, with women and men who have sex with other men (MSM) accounting for the most of these cases. There were approximately 63,450 new cases of syphilis reported in 2014, 83% of which were among males in which the sex of their sex partner was known.
How is Syphilis transmitted?
Transmission of syphilis from one person to another usually occurs through direct contact with a syphilis sore through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Location of syphilis sores is usually on the vagina, penis, and anus, in the rectum or on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission can also occur from a pregnant mother to her unborn child; a case referred to as congenital syphilis. Congenital syphilis can cause serious complications to a baby before and after childbirth, which include miscarriage, still birth, deafness, seizures, cataracts, low weight, and other abnormalities.
Syphilis is most infectious during the first two stages (primary and secondary stages). However, treatment during these early stages is easily administered through antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it can progress to later stages of infection and cause serious health problems such as organ failure, brain, and cardiovascular damage, and increase susceptibility to other STDs such as HIV.