20 Interesting Facts About Syphilis + Symptoms, Causes, Prevention

Here are the top interesting facts about syphilis:

#1 It is a sexually transmitted infection (spread primarily by sexual activity, including anal and oral sex) that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated properly.

#2 This infection is caused by a bacterium, named – Treponema pallidum. Rarely, this infection can be passed to another person through close bodily contact or prolonged kissing.

#3 More importantly, it can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy and cause complications.

For instance, this infection affects between 700,000 and 1.6 million pregnancies every year, leading to stillbirths or spontaneous abortions.

#4 Cuba became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of this condition, in 2015.

#5 Recently, it has been on the rise in the United States, from 2.1 cases per every 100,000 of the population in 2001 to 7.5 in 2015.

Bisexual and gay men accounted for the majority of new cases (82% of the patients).

Also, in the US, the percentage of blacks infected with this condition is about 300 percent more than other racial or ethnic groups.

#6 Canada has an infection rate of 5 per 100,000 people, according to data from 2009. Worldwide, this condition affects about 12 million people, with more than 90 percent of sufferers being in the developing world.

#7 Numerous famous individuals throughout history have suffered from this condition, including Adolf Hitler, Henry VIII, John F. Kennedy, Bram Stoker, Al Capone, and Vincent Van Gogh.

There is also strong evidence which indicates that Columbus’s crew became infected with this condition while in the New World and brought it back to Europe.


#8 It has both chronic and acute forms which produce a variety of symptoms affecting many of the body’s organ systems. It also has four stages:

#9 The first stage is a chancre, a small sore. The sore appears at the spot where the Treponema pallidum bacteria entered the human body.

These appear approximately 3 weeks after exposure. If a patient doesn’t get treatment in the primary stage of this infection, it may progress to the second stage.

#10 The secondary stage lasts between 1 and 3 months and commonly starts between 40 days and six months after the initial exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms include:

  • patchy hair loss;
  • white patches on the roof of the mouth or the tongue;
  • loss of appetite;
  • tiredness;
  • swollen glands;
  • warty-looking growths around the anus in both women and men (frequently mistaken for genital warts) and on the vulva in women;
  • a rash that is not itchy. It is usually seen on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

#11 These symptoms come and go over time, however, this doesn’t mean that this condition goes away. According to research, to be 100 percent sure you don’t have this condition anymore is to take meds for it.

This is the third stage of this infection and is also known as the hidden or latent stage. Tertiary syphilis can be fatal, plus, it is not treatable.

#12 Without the correct treatment, this infection can last even for decades without causing any signs and symptoms.

Ultimately, it can spread to parts of the body, including – the brain, where it can cause life-threatening problems. This is known as “tertiary syphilis”.


#13 This condition is caused by an infection with bacteria known as Treponema pallidum and transmitted from person to person by direct contact (especially when your vagina, vulva, anus, penis, or mouth touches someone’s syphilis sores).

Treponema pallidum bacteria are referred to as spirochetes because of their spiral shape.

Congenital syphilis results when the bacterial infection is transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus.

#14 You cannot take this condition by contact with toilet doorknobs, seats, shared clothing, swimming pools, or eating utensils.

#15 The main reason why this infection was thoughted as foreign was that it was frequently spread by sailors and soldiers who frequented prostitutes in other countries.


#16 There are 3 methods to diagnose this infection, such as – identifying Treponema pallidum bacteria under a microscope, examining blood samples, or recognizing the symptoms.


#17 This condition is commonly treated with one of the following medicines:

  • antibiotic tablets (especially if the patient can’t have the injection). This treatment will commonly last 14 days to a month, depending on how long the patient had the bacteria;
  • a single injection of penicillin can stop this infection from progressing if the patient has been infected for less than a year. However, if the patient had this condition for more than 12 months, he may need more penicillin doses, usually 3 injections given at weekly intervals.

#18 This infection will not come back after a correct treatment, nevertheless, it can recur with future exposure to the Treponema pallidum bacteria.


#19 The use of latex condoms considerably reduces the risk of spreading or catching this infection (but does not 100% eliminate it).

#20 Avoid sex with a partner infected with this bacteria. Avoid having sex with multiple partners, plus, always use dental dams for oral sex.

Images credit – Shutterstock

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