Syphilis is on the rise again

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STD syphilis on the rise again

Syphilis belongs to the group of sexually transmitted diseases. The pathogen is the “Treponema pallidum” bacterium. The infectious disease is predominantly transmitted during sexual intercourse, but can also be passed on to other people through blood contact or blood transfusions. Syphilis was actually considered largely eradicated in the industrialized nations and was more of a history. The disease has been on the rise again since 2004.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports that over 4,400 syphilis cases were reported in 2012. This is an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous year. Experts are concerned about the future, although venereal disease can actually be treated well with penicillin these days. If you look back a little bit further into the past, the numbers are a reason to act against a further spread. In 2009, the RKI registered 2,742 new cases of syphilis. Men are affected more often than women.

"In contrast to HIV, the somewhat older, 30 to 39 year-olds, are most affected by syphilis," explains Armin Schafberger of the German Aid Aid. The spread is not limited to individual regions. "We have the strongest increases in the big cities, but not only there," says RKI expert Viviane Bremer. Because of their high risk of infection, doctors have to report the disease. In concrete terms, this means that the laboratory doctor who determines the syphilis in need of treatment passes the patient's name on to the Robert Koch Institute.

In the early stages, however, the disease is barely noticeable and many sufferers do not even know that they are infected. Syphilis, like HIV, can be detected by a simple blood test, but the offers are not sufficient in some cities and regions due to tight budgets.

Typical symptoms at the beginning of syphilis include painless ulcers on the genitals, which are characterized by a hard edge. In the further course, rashes, fever and hair loss can occur. If the disease is not treated, it can persist for years and can even cause severe organ damage. This includes the so-called neurosyphilis, which can lead to serious damage to the brain and spinal cord. Initial evaluations of the numbers by the RKI for 2013 indicate a further increase in syphilis diseases. The experts suspect that the increase is due to the trend towards unprotected sexual intercourse and a certain “condom fatigue” of the Germans is a possible cause. (fr)

Image: S. Hofschlaeger /

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