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What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum.

How does one get Syphilis? 

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person (vaginal, anal, oral) 
  • Mother-to-child (transplacental infection)
  • Blood transfusion with contaminated blood products (all blood donations are screened in Singapore)
  • Contaminated needle stick injury and sharing intravenous needles with an infected person


How is Syphilis diagnosed? 

  • Positive blood test (4 – 6 weeks after exposure) called VDRL or RPR test 
  • This has to be confirmed by a positive TPHA (confirmatory test) or Line Immunoessay (LIA) – Abs test (confirmatory test) 
  • Secretions from chancre or skin lesions in the secondary stage examined under dark ground microscopy may reveal the bacteria 

What is the treatment for Syphilis? 

  • Penicillin injection
  • Alternative antibiotics are available for patients who are allergic to penicillin 
  • In primary, secondary and latent syphilis, adequate treatment will result in complete
  • In tertiary and congenital syphilis treatment can stop the progress of the disease but
    may not be able to restore full function or reverse permanent damage


Find out more about the various stages to Syphilis infection, what it is all about, how one can get infected, the diagnostic methods and what you should do if you have syphilis.

Download Patient Information Leaflets

Last update on 28 Nov 2013
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