Syphilis transmission, treatment for syphilis and How is syphilis diagnosed?

Welcome to our tips on syphilis. Here we are going to guide you on Syphilis transmission, treatment for syphilis and How is syphilis diagnosed?

Syphilis transmission

It is a well-known fact that Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can cause serious health sequelae if not adequately treated

Syphilis is transmitted from person to person by direct contact with a syphilitic sore, known as a chancre. Chancres can occur on or around the external genitals, in the vagina, around the anus , or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. Transmission of syphilis can occur during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. In addition, pregnant women with syphilis can transmit the infection to their unborn child

Treatment for syphilis

The recommended treatment for adults and adolescents with primary, secondary, or early latent syphilis is  Benzathine penicillin G 2.4 million units administered intramuscularly in a single dose. The recommended treatment for adults and adolescents with late latent syphilis or latent syphilis of unknown duration is Benzathine penicillin G 7.2 million units total, administered as 3 doses of 2.4 million units administered intramuscularly each at weekly intervals. The recommended treatment for neurosyphilis and ocular syphilis is Acqueous crystalline penicillin G 18-24 million units per day, administered as 3-4 million units intravenously every 4 hours or continuous infusion, for 10-14 days. Treatment will prevent disease progression, but it might not repair damage already done.

Selection of the appropriate penicillin preparation is important to properly treat and cure syphilis.  Combinations of some penicillin preparations (e.g., Bicillin C-R, a combination of benzathine penicillin and procaine penicillin) are not appropriate replacements for benzathine penicillin, as these combinations provide inadequate doses of penicillin. 8

Although data to support the use of alternatives to penicillin is limited, options for non-pregnant patients who are allergic to penicillin may include doxycycline, tetracycline, and for neurosyphilis, potentially ceftriaxone. These therapies should be used only in conjunction with close clinical and laboratory follow-up to ensure appropriate serological response and cure. 3

Persons who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed. Persons with syphilis must notify their sex partners so that they also can be tested and receive treatment if necessary.

Who should be tested for syphilis?

Any person with signs or symptoms suggestive of syphilis should be tested for syphilis. Also, anyone with an oral, anal, or vaginal sex partner who has been recently diagnosed with syphilis should be tested for syphilis.

Some people should be tested (screened) for syphilis even if they do not have symptoms or know of a sex partner who has syphilis. Anyone who is sexually active should discuss his or her risk factors with a health care provider and ask whether he or she should be tested for syphilis or other STDs.

In addition, providers should routinely test for syphilis in persons who

  • are pregnant;
  • are sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM);
  • are living with HIV and are sexually active;
  • are taking PrEP for HIV prevention.

How syphilis can be diagnosed

The definitive method for diagnosing syphilis is visualizing the Treponema pallidum bacterium via darkfield microscopy. This technique is rarely performed today. Diagnoses are thus more commonly made using blood tests.Cdc-pdfExternal There are two types of blood tests available for syphilis: 1) nontreponemal tests and 2) treponemal tests. Both types of tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis of syphilis.

Nontreponemal tests (e.g., VDRL and RPR) are simple, inexpensive, and are often used for screening. However, they are not specific for syphilis, can produce false-positive results, and, by themselves, are insufficient for diagnosis. VDRL and RPR should each have their antibody titer results reported quantitatively. Persons with a reactive nontreponemal test should always receive a treponemal test to confirm a syphilis diagnosis. This sequence of testing (nontreponemal, then treponemal test) is considered the “classical” testing algorithm.

Treponemal tests (e.g., FTA-ABS, TP-PA, various EIAs, chemiluminescence immunoassays, immunoblots, and rapid treponemal assays) detect antibodies that are specific for syphilis. Treponemal antibodies appear earlier than nontreponemal antibodies and usually remain detectable for life, even after successful treatment. If a treponemal test is used for screening and the results are positive, a nontreponemal test with titer should be performed to confirm diagnosis and guide patient management decisions. Based on the results, further treponemal testing may be indicated. For further guidance, please refer to the 2015 STD Treatment Guidelines.  This sequence of testing (treponemal, then nontreponemal, test) is considered the “reverse” sequence testing algorithm.Reverse sequence testing can be more convenient for laboratories, but its clinical interpretation is problematic, as this testing sequence can identify persons previously treated for syphilis, those with untreated or incompletely treated syphilis, and persons with false-positive results that can occur with a low likelihood of infection.

Special note: Because untreated syphilis in a pregnant woman can infect and possibly kill her developing baby, every pregnant woman should have a blood test for syphilis. All women should be screened at their first prenatal visit. For patients who belong to communities and populations with high prevalence of syphilis and for patients at high risk, blood tests should also be performed during the third trimester (at 28–32 weeks) and at delivery. For further information on screening guidelines, please refer to the 2015 STD Treatment Guidelines. 3

All infants born to mothers who have reactive nontreponemal and treponemal test results should be evaluated for congenital syphilis. A quantitative nontreponemal test should be performed on infant serum and, if reactive, the infant should be examined thoroughly for evidence of congenital syphilis. Suspicious lesions, body fluids, or tissues (e.g., umbilical cord, placenta) should be examined by darkfield microscopy, PCR testing, and/or special stains. Other recommended evaluations may include analysis of cerebrospinal fluid by VDRL, cell count and protein, CBC with differential and platelet count, and long-bone radiographs. For further guidance on evaluation of infants for congenital syphilis, please refer to the 2015 STD Treatment Guidelines. 

What is the link between syphilis and HIV?

In the United States, approximately half of men who have sex with men (MSM) with primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis were also living with HIV. In addition, MSM who are HIV-negative and diagnosed with P&S syphilis are more likely to be infected with HIV in the future.  Genital sores caused by syphilis make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually. There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to that infection when syphilis is present.  Furthermore, syphilis and certain other STDs might be indicators of ongoing behaviors and exposures that place a person at greater risk for acquiring HIV.

How Common Is Syphilis?

Syphilis was once a major public health threat, commonly causing serious long-term health problems such as arthritis, brain damage, and blindness. It defied effective treatment until the late 1940s, when the antibiotic penicillin was first developed.

According to the CDC, the rate of new cases of syphilis had plummeted in the 1990’s and in the year 2000 it reached an all time low since reporting began in 1941. However, new cases of syphillis doubled between 2005 and 2013 from 8,724 to 16,663. 

In 2017, the number of new cases had risen to 101,567 for all stages.


I hope at this juncture, we have been able to guide you on Syphilis transmission, treatment for syphilis and How is syphilis diagnosed. kindly share it with friends.

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