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Syphilis, sometimes called pox, is a sexually transmitted disease. Routine screening for syphilis in early pregnancy has eliminated the mode of transmission from mother to child, responsible for serious consequences for the fetus. It is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum and occurs about three weeks after contact with the latter. This bacterial infection causes damage to the skin and mucous membranes. There are two stages of syphilis during which people go through asymptomatic phases.


Syphilis involves two stages, characterized by various symptoms:
  • Primary syphilis is characterized by:
    • The appearance of a single round injury on the external genitalia, pink in color, hard, but not painful. This is a syphilitic chancre.
    • The lesion may sometimes be located at the mouth or anus depending on the type of infection.
    • A ganglion is often found nearby.
  • Then, after the disappearance of the chancre in a few weeks, the disease progresses to secondary syphilis with:
    • A rash called syphilitic roseola, which takes the form of small discrete pale pink lesions on the trunk.
    • The lesions may be a little browner, and their edges can give the impression of a slight desquamation (peeling skin). They are located on the face, limbs, trunk, and sometimes on the palms or soles of the feet.
    • During this phase, other less specific signs can be identified, including fever, body pain, enlarged lymph nodes...
  • Sometimes a stage called tertiary syphilis occurs, but it is very rare.


The diagnosis of syphilis is suspected in the presence of the clinical signs mentioned above. It will be confirmed by a blood test: a diagnostic serology, which combines two tests called TPHA and VDRL and whose analysis results in the confirmation of infection and assesses the stage of the disease. If an infection is evident, looking for other sexually transmitted infections is consistent and strongly encouraged for sexual partners.


The treatment of syphilis is based primarily on the use of antibiotics, especially penicillin G. The one-time treatment is administered intramuscularly or intravenously. After six months, serological monitoring is needed to assess the effectiveness of treatment. Sexual relations must be protected and sexual partners of the infected patient will screened and treated if necessary.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, and it is essential to have safe sex in case of doubt of a partner's status, even in the case of oral sex or anal intercourse because the transmission is also possible in these cases. The search for syphilis in early pregnancy helps in the prevention of maternal-fetal transmission.

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