Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum that can enter the body with close contact with an infected sore, normally during vaginal, anal or oral sex or by sharing sex toys with someone who is infected.

Syphilis has various stages. In the first stage a painless ulcer forms on the vulva, cervix, penis, mouth or rectum. If left untreated, three to six weeks later the infection will enter the second stage, with symptoms of lethargy, swollen glands, white patches in the mouth, and a rash all over the body typically on soles and palms. After this time the infection may become latent, and the person is asymptomatic. The third and final phase can present some ten years after infection, and can affect the heart and possibly the nervous system. The primary and secondary stages are when you are most infectious to other people. In the latent phase which is usually around two years after becoming infected syphilis is less likely to be passed on to others but can still cause symptoms.

Syphilis is diagnosed through a blood test.

The treatment for syphilis is by using antibiotics, usually penicillin injections. I f allergic to penicillin there are specific antibiotic tablets that can be taken.  If left untreated syphilis can cause serious conditions such as stroke, paralysis, blindness or death. After treatment, follow-up tests are carried out regularly and then periodically to ensure that treatment was effective. Syphilis infection makes a person more susceptible to transmitting and acquiring HIV due to increased genital ulcers.

Primary and secondary syphilis in pregnancy can cause serious consequences such as preterm labour, miscarriage (death of the foetus before 24 weeks' gestation), stillbirth (death of the fetus after 24 weeks' gestation), polyhydramnios (where there is an abnormally large amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus, which can cause serious pregnancy complications such as preterm labour, placental abruption and postpartum haemorrhage) and congenital syphilis.

The picture below shows the entrance of the bacterium in a male body and the other organs that are affected by this infection




In primary syphilis all present sexual partners and those of previous three months need to be notified and tested. In secondary and early latent syphilis all sexual contacts from previous 2 years need to be contacted and encouraged to be tested.