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Syphilis is caused by a bacteria like organism, called Treponema pallidum. It is spread through broken skin or mucous membranes, usually during sexual contact, especially oral intercourse or anal intercourse. Approximately one third of contacts of infectious syphilis will develop the disease.

Syphilis incidence highest since 1949

Public Health England’s 2016 figures have shown a 12 % increase in Syphilis cases from 5281 to 5920. The largest increase in the number of cases since 1949. In particular the increased incidence is in urban areas such as London, Brighton and Manchester.

Main factors appear to be condomless sexual practices and sero sorting in HIV positive men. In 2016 81 % of new syphilis cases were in MSM.

Symptoms and Signs

The first symptom of primary syphilis is a painless ulcer (chancre) in the genital area or mouth, depending on the type of exposure. This tends to occur after 2 to 3 weeks from infection, but can take up to 90 days.

Secondary syphilis presents affecting different systems of the body within the first two years of infection. This can include a generalised rash ( often not itchy) often affecting the palms and soles and glandular swelling. Less commonly the nervous system can be involved such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain), hepatitis (liver), and enlargement of the spleen.

After this, most people remain well for many years, before developing complications. Late syphilis complications is found in up to 40 % of untreated late infections involving in the heart ( aneurysms and angina) and the central nervous system ( including dementia).


Antibody testing is the preferred method of diagnosis. If this is positive, then further tests are carried out to confirm infection.

  • New Fastest Screen-Syphilis Result in 15 Minutes as part of our Fastest STD Screen £240 (Includes HIV/B/Syphilis tests) from 28 Days Post Exposure
  • Syphilis IGG /IGM Antibody Test – as a single laboratory test £130. (Includes cost of confirmatory tests if initial result is reactive).Same Day/Next Day Results


Syphilis is fully treatable with a simple regimen of injectable antibiotics.

Contact Tracing

Current partners should be screened for syphilis and other STDs. Treatment is recommended for partners generally in cases of early syphilis contact. Repeat syphilis testing should be carried out at 3 months.

The look back period in terms of contacting previous partners, will be decided by the GUM consultant. It is dependent on a range of factors but can go back years.

ScreenTest IncludesTurnaround Accurate From ?PriceAvailability
Syphilis Fastest
Finger Prick-Syphilis Screen
IGG/IGM Antibodies
10 Minutes (Central London)

Accurate from 28 Days and conclusive results at 90 days post exposure £150London & Nationwide


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