Syphilis is an STD caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum.1 This disease is usually spread from one person to another during anal, vaginal or oral sex,2 through contact with the syphilis sore of an infected person. The bacteria makes its way through the body via minor cuts or abrasions in the skin or through the mucous membranes.3
Syphilis can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her child either during a pregnancy, or during labor and delivery, resulting in a condition called congenital syphilis. The Treponema pallidum bacteria enters the placenta and then infects the baby’s blood system.4
The Untold History of Syphilis
Syphilis has been affecting people for many centuries now, with the first known syphilis infection recorded in Renaissance Italy in 1495, after Charles VIII invaded Naples. The infection occurred because of the sexual relations of a French leper and a Spanish prostitute infected with gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The prostitute was then said to infect occupying soldiers.5
Syphilis became known as the "French Disease," spreading quickly across Europe and claiming numerous lives. In 1496, mercury was first used to treat this STD, although it immensely backfired because it led to fatal cases of mercury poisoning. Eventually, mercury was banned as a syphilis treatment in 17th century.
Syphilis by the Numbers Today
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 74,702 reported new syphilis diagnoses at all stages in 2015. Of this number, 23,872 were classified as primary and secondary syphilis, or the earliest and most transmissible stages of syphilis. Majority of these cases were among homosexual and bisexual people, and among men who have sex with men (MSM).
In the same year, MSM accounted for 81.7 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases among men in which the partner’s sex was known, and for 60 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases overall. It has to be noted that the numbers of primary and secondary syphilis cases have been steadily rising in recent years among MSM and in heterosexual men and women.
Learn How to Combat Syphilis Effectively
Syphilis can cause immense discomfort and can be a source of embarrassment, but the good news is that there are ways to prevent it from affecting you or someone you know. Arguably, providing yourself with enough information regarding this STD is one of your best defenses.
Take some time to read these pages to learn what syphilis is, its usual symptoms, the types of syphilis people can be affected with and preventive measures and treatments that can work in addressing the disease. Share this information with your family and friends so they too can stay vigilant against this disease.