Worrying new trend spotted by disease specialists amid rise in cases of 15th century STI

By Staff 6 Min Read

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can be life-threatening if left untreated – symptoms for the disease can be subtle and hard to notice in some cases

Disease specialists have raised concerns about a new trend in people who are suffering from syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) renowned for spreading across 15th century Europe.

New research by the 2024 Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, claimed people suffering from syphilis are reporting late-stage symptoms earlier in their illness. Researchers based in Chicago, Illinois, found 28 people reported these symptoms in the last year and that nearly one third of them were in the late stages of their infection.

It also found that an estimated 68 per cent had experienced symptoms common with syphilis, such as rashes and sores on their gentiles. Doctors look at these symptoms to find if someone has syphilis, and it concerned researchers that some patients were not being identified.

“Providers definitely need to be screening more and be aware that this is what we’re seeing,” said lead study author Dr Amy Nham, according to The Sun. Syphilis is a serious STI that can cause serious complications if left untreated. Syphilis is typically passed on from one person to another when they engage in unprotected sex. It can also be passed on from an infected mother to an unborn child in the womb.

Complications from syphilis can be potentially life threatening and can cause serious health problems, which include:

  • Heart problems like angina, aortic aneurysm and heart failure
  • Brain problems like fits (seizures), memory problems, personality changes and dementia
  • Nerve problems like shooting pains, pins and needles, joint pain and gradual damage the joints
  • Problems with the skin, bones, testicles, liver and any other organ

The STI was identified during the 15th century during a French invasion of Naples, Italy. It was originally known as the French Disease during the initial years after its discovery.

According to the NHS, it can take up to three weeks for syphilis symptoms to present themselves. Symptoms of syphilis include:

  • Small sores (ulcers) on your penis, vagina, or around your bottom (anus) – these are usually painless and you may only have one of them
  • Sores in other areas, including in your mouth or on your lips, hands or bottom
  • White or grey warty growths most commonly on your penis, vagina or around your anus
  • A rash on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet that can sometimes spread all over your body – this is not usually itchy
  • White patches in your mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, headaches and tiredness
  • Swollen glands
  • Patchy hair loss on the head, beard and eyebrows

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