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Caused by Treponema pallidum.
Transmission: sexual; maternal-fetal, and rarely
by other means.
Primary and secondary syphilis in the US
dropped by ~ 90 %t from 1990 to 2000, the
number of cases have gone up since then.
A dramatic increase in cases in men from 2000
to 2002 reflected syphilis in MSM.
Syphilis increases the risk of both transmitting
and getting infected with HIV.
Do HIV testing in all patients with syphilis.

1. Primary
2. Secondary
3. Latent
Early latent
Late latent

4. Late or tertiary
May involve any organ, but main parts are:
Cardiovascular syphilis
Late benign (gumma)
(The Chancre)
Incubation period 9-90 days, usually ~21 days.
Develops at site of contact/inoculation.
Classically: single, painless, clean-based,
indurated ulcer, with firm, raised borders. Atypical
presentations may occur.
Mostly anogenital, but may occur at any site
(tongue, pharynx, lips, fingers, nipples, etc...)
Non-tender regional adenopathy
Very infectious.
May be darkfield positive but serologically
Untreated, heals in several weeks, leaving a faint scar.
Oral chancres in primary syphilis
Seen 6 wks to 6 mos after primary chancre
Usually diffuse non-pruritic, indurated rash,
including palms & soles.
May also cause:
Fever, malaise, headache, sore throat, myalgia,
arthralgia, generalized lymphadenopathy
Hepatitis (10%)
Renal: an immune complex type of nephropathy
with transient nephrotic syndrome
Iritis or an anterior uveitis
Bone: periostitis
CSF pleocytosis in 10 - 30% (but, symptomatic
meningitis is seen in <1%)
The skin rash:
often with a superficial scale (papulosquamous).
May leave residual pigmentation or depigmentation.

Condylomata Lata:
Formed by coalescence of large, pale, flat-topped
Occur in warm, moist areas such as the perineum.
Highly infectious.

Mucosal lesions:
~ 30% of secondary syphilis patients develop mucous patch
(slightly raised, oval area covered by a grayish white
membrane, with a pink base that does not bleed).
Highly infectious
Condylomata lata
Alopecia areata
Positive syphilis serology without clinical signs
of syphilis (& has normal CSF).
It begins with the end of secondary syphilis and may
last for a lifetime.
Pt may or may not have a h/o primary or secondary
Diseases known to cause occasional false-positive
nontreponemal test reactions for syphilis, such as
systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and congenital
syphilis must be excluded before the diagnosis of
latent syphilis can be made.
Is divided into early and late latency.

1. Early latent:
The first year after the resolution of primary or
secondary lesions, or
A reactive serologic test for syphilis in an
asymptomatic individual who has had a negative
serologic test within the preceding year.
2. Late latent:
Usually not infectious, except for the pregnant
woman, who may transmit infection to her fetus.
Tertiary Syphilis

Is the destructive stage of the disease.

Lesions develop in skin, bone, & visceral organs (any
The main types are:
Late benign (gummatous)
Cardiovascular &
Can be crippling and life threatening
Blindness, deafness, deformity, lack of coordination,
paralysis, dementia may occur
It is usually very slowly progressive, barring certain
neurologic syndromes which may develop suddenly due to
endarteritis and thrombosis in the CNS
Late syphilis is noninfectious.
The gumma was the most common complication of late syphilis in
the Oslo Study of untreated patients (1891 to 1951); rare in the
penicillin era.
Usually develop 1-10 years after infection and may involve any part
of the body.
Gummas may be single or multiple. Start as a superficial nodule
or as a deeper lesion that breaks down to form punched-out
ulcers. They are ordinarily indolent, slowly progressive, and
indurated granulomata, with central healing with an atrophic scar
surrounded by hyperpigmented borders.
Cutaneous gummas may be confused with skin lesions of TB,
sarcoidosis, leprosy, and deep fungal infections (but, gumma is the
only such lesion to heal dramatically with penicillin therapy).
Gumma can also be papulosquamous type mimicking psoriasis.
T. pallidum is ordinarily not demonstrable by silver stain but can
sometimes be recovered by inoculation of rabbits.
May be destructive, but responds rapidly to treatment, thus, is
relatively benign.
Late syphilis - serpiginous
gummata of forearm
Late syphilis - ulcerating
Dark field Microscopy
Direct Fluorescent Antibody (DFA)
Primary, Secondary, Early Latent

Recommended regimen
-Benzathine Penicillin G, 2.4 million units IM
Penicillin Allergy*
-Doxycycline 100 mg twice daily x 14 days
-Ceftriaxone 1 gm IM/IV daily x 8-10 days (limited studies)
-Azithromycin 2 gm single oral dose (preliminary data)
Congenital Syphilis
Congenital syphilis is transmitted in utero after the first 16 weeks of
pregnancy, therefore it is usually not a cause of abortion during the
first trimester.
The infected child born later in a family usually has less severe
Again, it has been divided according to the arbitrary dividing line of
two years into early and late types.
Early Congenital
The features are similar to secondary syphilis. Usually it occurs 2-8
weeks after birth, presenting with failure to thrive, muco-cutaneous
lesions (condylomata lata), generalized lymphadenopathy, nasal
snuffles and skin rash.
Late Congenital
The onset usually occurs at or near puberty. Well-known stigmata
include nerve deafness, interstitial keratitis, Hutchison's teeth
(Hutchison's triad), rhagades around mouth, clutton's joint, osteitis
& chondritis (saddle nose, frontal bossing, sabre tibia) and
perforated palate.
The permanent dentition may show characteristic
abnormalities known as Hutchinson's teeth; the upper
central incisors are widely spaced, centrally notched, and
tapered in the manner of a screwdriver. The molars may
show multiple, poorly developed cusps (i.e., mulberry
Congenital Syphilis
Infants with Seroreactive Mothers
Nontreponemal test on infant serum

Examination (nonimmune hydrops, jaundice,

rhinitis, rash)
Pathologic exam of placenta or umbilical cord
(fluorescent antitreponemal antibody)
Darkfield or DFA of suspicious lesions or
body fluids
Congenital Syphilis
Proven/highly probable disease
Aqueous crystalline penicillin G 100,000
-150,000 units/kg/day, administered as
50,000 units/kg/dose IV q 12 hours during
the first 7 days and thereafter q 8 hours for
10 days
Procaine penicillin G 50,000 units/kg/dose IM
in a single daily dose for 10 days