2. • Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by
the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum.
• Four stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary)
• Syphilis is most commonly spread through sexual
• It may also be transmitted from mother to baby during
pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis.
• Other human diseases caused
related Treponema bacteria include
pinta (subspecies carateum),
nonvenereal endemic syphilis (subspecies endemicum).
3. These three diseases are not typically sexually transmitted.
Diagnosis is usually made by using blood tests.
The bacteria can also be detected using dark field
The Center for Disease Control recommends all pregnant
women be tested.
The risk of sexual transmission of syphilis can be reduced by
using a latex condom.
Syphilis can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
4. Treponema pallidum is a Gram-negative bacteria which is
spiral in shape. It is an obligate internal parasite which
causes syphilis, a chronic human disease.
The virulent strain of T. pallidum was first isolated 1912 from
a neurosyphilitic patient
consisting of an inner membrane, a thin peptidoglycan cell
wall, and an outer membrane.
It is very small in size with a length that ranges from 6 to 20
um and a diameter.
T. pallidum is a member of the spirochete family which are
characterized by their distinct helical shape.
5. Probably the most interesting property of T. pallidum’s
structure is the endoflagella found in the periplasmic space
between its two membranes.
These organelles give T. pallidum its distinctive corkscrew
For the past decades treatment has been available,
syphilis remains a health problem throughout the world.
The WHO (world health organization) “estimates that 12
million new cases of syphilis occur each year.”
Primary syphilis is typically acquired by direct sexual contact with
the infectious lesions of another person.
Approximately 3 to 90 days after the initial exposure.
A skin lesion, called a chancre, appears at the point of contact.
This is classically a single, firm, painless, non-itchy skin ulceration
with a clean base and sharp borders 0.3–3.0 cm in size.
The lesion may take on almost any form. In the classic form, it
evolves from a macule to a papule and finally to
an erosion or ulcer.
8. The most common location in women is the cervix
the penis in heterosexual men ,
and anally and rectally relatively commonly in men who have sex
with men .
Lymph node enlargement frequently occurs around the area of
The lesion may persist for three to six weeks without
Occasionally, multiple lesions may be present with multiple
lesions more common when confected with HIV.
Lesions may be painful or tender and they may occur in places
other than the genitals.
Secondary syphilis occurs approximately four to ten weeks
after the primary infection.
While secondary disease is known for the many different
ways it can manifest, symptoms most commonly involve the
skin, mucous membranes, and lymph nodes.
There may be a symmetrical, reddish-pink, non-itchy rash on
the trunk and extremities, including the palms and soles.
The rash may become maculopapular or pustular. It may
form flat, broad, whitish, wart-like lesions known
as condyloma latum on mucous membranes. All of these
lesions harbour bacteria and are infectious.
11. Other symptoms may include fever, sore throat, malaise, weight
loss, hair loss, and headache.
Rare manifestations include
• liver inflammation
• Kidney disease
• joint inflammation
• inflammation of the optic nerve
• uveitis, and interstitial keratitis.
12. The acute symptoms usually resolve after three to six weeks
about 25% of people may present with a recurrence of
Many people who present with secondary syphilis do not report
previously having had the classic chancre of primary syphilis.
Latent syphilis is defined as having serologic proof of infection
without symptoms of disease.
It is further described as either early (less than 1 year after
secondary syphilis) or late (more than 1 year after secondary
Early latent syphilis may have a relapse of symptoms. Late
latent syphilis is asymptomatic, and not as contagious as early
Tertiary syphilis may occur approximately 3 to 15 years after
the initial infection, and may be divided into three different
and cardiovascular syphilis .
Without treatment, a third of infected people develop
People with tertiary syphilis are not infectious.
15. Gummatous syphilis or late benign syphilis usually occurs 1 to
46 years after the initial infection, with an average of 15 years.
This stage is characterized by the formation of
chronic gummas, which are soft, tumor-like balls of
inflammation which may vary considerably in size.
They typically affect the skin, bone, and liver, but can occur
Neurosyphilis refers to an infection involving the central
It may occur early, being either asymptomatic or in the form of
Congenital syphilis is that which is transmitted during
pregnancy or during birth.
Two-thirds of syphilitic infants are born without symptoms.
Common symptoms that develop over the first couple of years
of life include enlargement of the liver and spleen , rash , fever,
neurosyphilis , and lung inflammation .
Infection during pregnancy is also associated with miscarriage
primarily by sexual contact.
from a mother to her fetus.
the spirochete is able to pass through intact mucous
membranes or compromised skin.
It is thus transmissible by kissing near a lesion, as well as oral,
vaginal, and anal sex.
Syphilis can be transmitted by blood products, but the risk is
low due to blood testing in many countries.
It is not generally possible to contract syphilis through toilet
seats, daily activities, hot tubs, or sharing eating utensils or
This is mainly because the bacteria die very quickly outside of
the body, making transmission by objects extremely difficult.
Syphilis is difficult to diagnose clinically early in its
Confirmation is either via blood tests or direct visual
inspection using microscopy.
Blood tests are more commonly used, as they are easier to
Diagnostic tests are unable to distinguish between the
stages of the disease.
20. Blood tests
Blood tests are divided into
Nontreponemal tests are used initially, and include
venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL)
rapid plasma reagin (RPR) tests.
False positives on the nontreponemal tests can occur with
some viral infections, such as varicella (chickenpox)
and measles. False positives can also occur
with lymphoma, tuberculosis, malaria, endocarditis, connecti
ve tissue disease, and pregnancy.
21. Because of the possibility of false positives with nontreponemal
tests, confirmation is required with a treponemal test,
Treponemal pallidum particle agglutination (TPHA)
Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test
Treponemal antibody tests usually become positive two to five
weeks after the initial infection.
Neurosyphilis is diagnosed by finding high numbers
of leukocytes (predominately lymphocytes) and high protein
levels in the cerebrospinal fluid in the setting of a known syphilis
As of 2018, there is no vaccine effective for prevention.
Several vaccines based on treponemal proteins reduce lesion
development in an animal model and research continues.
The first-choice treatment for uncomplicated syphilis remains a
single dose of intramuscular benzathine benzylpenicillin.
Doxycycline and tetracycline are alternative choices for those
allergic to penicillin
due to the risk of birth defects, these are not recommended for
Resistance to macrolides, rifampicin, and clindamycin is often
present. Ceftriaxone, a third-generation cephalosporin antibiotic,
may be as effective as penicillin-based treatment.