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Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that causes genital ulcers (sores) in its early stages. If untreated, these ulcers can then lead to more serious symptoms of infection.

An ancient disease, syphilis is still of major importance today. In 2008, 13,500 cases of syphilis were reported in the united States, mostly in people 20 to 29 years of age. Of these reported cases, 63 percent were among men who have sex with men. Syphilis rates have increased in males each year between 2000 and 2008 and in females each year between 2004 and 2008.

HIV infection and syphilis are linked. Syphilis increases the risk of transmitting as well as getting infected with HIV.

NIAID Research on Syphilis

Developing better ways to diagnose and treat syphilis is an important research goal of scientists supported by NIAID.

Scientists are developing new tests that may provide better ways to diagnose syphilis and define the stage of infection. Efforts to develop a diagnostic test that would not require a blood sample are a high priority. For example, researchers are evaluating saliva and urine to see whether they would work as well as blood. Researchers also are trying to develop other diagnostic tests for detecting infection in babies.

More About NIAID Research on Syphilis

Last Updated December 10, 2010