Primary syphilis; Secondary syphilis; Late syphilis; Tertiary syphilis
Syphilis is a frequently diagnosed sexually transmitted disease.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted, infectious disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum. This bacterium causes infection when it gets into broken skin or mucus membranes, usually of the genitals. Syphilis is most often transmitted through sexual contact, although it also can be transmitted in other ways.
Syphilis occurs worldwide. Syphilis is more common in urban areas, and the number of cases is rising fastest in men who have sex with men. Young adults ages 15 - 25 are the highest-risk population. People have no natural resistance to syphilis.
Because people may be unaware that they are infected with syphilis, many states require tests for syphilis before marriage. All pregnant women who receive prenatal care should be screened for syphilis to prevent the infection from passing to their newborn (congenital syphilis).
Syphilis has three stages:
Secondary syphilis, tertiary syphilis, and congenital syphilis are not seen as often in the United States as they were in the past because of the availability of:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommendations and Reports: Sexually Transmitted Diseases. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2006;55(RR-11).
Screening for syphilis infection in pregnancy: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2009;150:705-709.
Tramont EC. Traponema pallidum (syphilis). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 238.
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