Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum, one of a group of closely related spirochaetes including Tpertenue,Tcarateum and Tpallidum var Bosnia which cause yaws, pinta and endemic syphilis respectively.

In Australia, syphilis usually presents either as a primary lesion or through the chance finding of positive syphilis serology. Practitioners should be alert to the various manifestations of secondary syphilis. Congenital syphilis is rare where there is general serological screening of antenatal patients. Tertiary, cardiovascular and central nervous syphilis are rarely seen. Notifications of syphilis have increased in the past decade. This is largely attributed to a high incidence in urban homosexual men.

The usual mode of transmission is sexual intercourse. Transplacental transmission to the foetus can occur. Tpallidum may be spread by blood contamination, for example by needlestick injuries or the sharing of needles by intravenous drug users or by direct contact with open lesions.

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