Syphilis :A historic disease that has made a comeback…

 Darkfield micrograph of Treponema pallidum

Syphilis infections almost doubled in Auckland between 2014 and 2015 in a trend that has medical professionals worried.

A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal found the Auckland Regional Sexual Health Service treated 152 cases of the sexually transmitted infection in 2015.

This was a 78 per cent increase on the 84 Auckland cases the year before.

“The 152 cases treated in 2015 is the largest number to date and is a worrying trend, particularly because the total number of cases in Auckland is likely to be higher due to under-reporting,” the report said.

This trend corresponded to rising rates of syphilis infection in Australia, the UK and US as well, the report said.

It said a dedicated New Zealand public health response was needed because syphilis can cause serious complications, including miscarriage or still-birth if a woman is infected during pregnancy

Common symptoms include genital ulcers and rashes on the body or palms of hands and soles of feet.

Alarmingly, researchers also found that just over one-third of those seeking treatment for syphilis were additionally infected with HIV, while 22 per cent had another STI, most commonly chlamydia.

Syphilis infections were far more common among gay or bisexual men, who accounted for 77 per cent of those seeking treatment, while 15 per cent were heterosexual men and 8 per cent heterosexual women.

Although the number of heterosexual men diagnosed with syphilis in 2015 was small at 35 people, the report said this was an almost quadrupling of the nine Auckland cases reported in 2014.


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