In 1999 about 12 million people worldwide contracted syphilis, with over 90% of cases being registered in developing countries. After a dramatic decrease in the number of cases due to the availability of penicillin in the ’40s, with the start of the new millennium infection rates increased in many countries, infection being frequently associated with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
This is in part attributed to unsafe sexual practices among men as intimate relations with men, increased promiscuity, prostitution and the tendency to use increasingly lower barrier protection means.
How is syphilis contracted?
Syphilis can be contracted due to unprotected sexual contact, by blood (transfusions or use of some contaminated instruments), via a Trans placental exchange during pregnancy from mother to child through kissing (if the infected person has a lesion in the mouth) or touching contaminated objects (the barber tools, medical instruments that were not sterilized).
The bacteria enters the body, usually through the mucous membranes, most commonly by those around the genitals and urinary tract. More rarely, it can penetrate through any wounds or cracks. If you are pregnant and infected with syphilis, the bacteria can cross the placenta and infect the fetus during any stages of the pregnancy or childbirth.
Note: Contrary to some misinformed opinions, syphilis is NOT contracted as a result of contact with filthy door handles, toilet seats, clothing, bath tubs, cups or utensils.