Infectious diseases are on the rise. The only way to prevent infectious disease is by screening, a part of preventive healthcare. One such contagious sexually transmitted disease is syphilis. Syphilis is also increasing among nonpregnant adolescents and adults However, one can prevent syphilis by proper screening. Preventing syphilis So, how do we prevent syphilis? 

Preventive medicine helps people prevent disease before it affects them. 

What is syphilis?

It is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum subspecies. It is a dangerous disease if left untreated. Syphilis infection can increase and spread to other parts of the body. It can affect the eyes, mouth, kidneys, and brain, causing death. 

Syphilis statistics 2024

Researchers have noticed an increase in syphilis infections since 2000. It is common in sub-saharan regions, some parts of Africa, and Europe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men account for most cases of syphilis. Most gay, bisexual men who have sex with men are prone to syphilis.

There is another important statistic that one must look for. There is a noticeable trend of syphilis infection among nonpregnant adolescents. A study conducted between 2015-2020 showed the following findings-

  • At least 51.3% of people having heterosexual partners were found positive for syphilis.
  • 7.5% of people were MSM
  • 79% of people were diagnosed at the latent stage of syphilis
  • 10% secondary syphilis
  • 8% tertiary syphilis.

What are the different stages of syphilis infection?

Syphilis has different stages, which are as follows-

Primary syphilis is usually the first sign of infection, a small sore called a chancre. Generally, people develop only one chancre at first. Some people may not notice it, as it can heal within three to six weeks.

Secondary syphilis is the second stage of infection, where the sore starts affecting your body. It occurs as a form of rash and covers the palms and soles of the feet. The sore can also be in your mouth or the genital area. Infected people may also experience swollen lymph nodes, and these symptoms will come and go.

Latent syphilis: The previous symptoms, if untreated, can become hidden. In other words, it becomes latent and goes unnoticed for years.

Tertiary syphilis: This is a very complicated stage of syphilis infection, where the infection spreads to the other body the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, etc. 

Neurosyphilis is the last stage, where the infection damages the nervous system and the eye. 

Sometimes, children are born with congenital syphilis that spreads through the placenta at birth. Usually, these babies die in the womb or a few days after delivery. 

What does the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) tell about preventing syphilis?

Screening is the only possible way to avoid syphilis infection. The USPSTF recommends global screening for preventing syphilis. Regular screening, doctor visits, and following preventive steps can curb and cure syphilis. 

Screening tests for syphilis- 

Previously, screening for syphilis was done by a 2 step process with an initial nontreponemal test or sometimes a rapid plasma test. 

Nowadays, the USPSTF recommends a reverse sequence algorithm test for syphilis. This uses an automated treponemal test for syphilis screening. After this, a nontreponemal test for reactive samples is done. A confirmatory test is done again to make sure. Most hospitals still follow traditional screening. 

However, the automated screening test is considered more accurate as it gives quicker results. The computerized test for syphilis can be used in areas with high risk. 

Rapid Point of Care(POC) tests for the antibodies sometimes provide quick on-site results. However, it is always reliable to go for automated screening tests.

How can you prevent syphilis?

Education is the only key to preventing any disease. Most people need more ideas about it. Schools, colleges, and other institutions must hold awareness camps about syphilis. One must go for regular blood checkups for at least a year. The NGOs do have several programs that make people aware of preventing syphilis. 

Prevention is the best medicine. Sexually transmitted diseases must be prevented before they take one’s life. Screening is the only possible way to prevent syphilis. All young adults must go for regular screening for syphilis prevention. Keep following ZeaMed for more health updates.


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