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• During first half of the century syphilis was
major cause of blindness, mental illness, and
contributed to heart disease and stroke
• During WWII, 5% of military recruits had
• By 1950’s it was eradicated!
• But…we have seen a resurgence
– 1996 reported 70,000 cases to CDC
– 2004 reported 7,235 cases to CDC
Treponema pallidum
• Causative agent of
• Motile spirochete
which is about 20um
in length
• Cannot be grown in
vitro, must be grown
in tissue culture
• There are three clinical stages of syphilis
– Primary: occurs 3 weeks after infection with a
painless red ulcer, called a chancre
– Secondary: occurs 2-10 weeks later runny nose,
watery eyes, aches, sore throat, rash on the hands
and feet, whitish patches on the mucous
– Tertiary: occurs up to ten years later..mental
illness, blindness, stroke, and nervous system
Primary Syphilis
• Less than 100
necessary for
infectious dose
• This lesion is
teeming with
Secondary syphilis
• Characteristic rash
• Syphilis can be
transmitted by
kissing at this stage,
due to infections in
the skin and mucous
Tertiary Syphilis
• Gummas can form
in any part of the
Congenital Syphilis
• T. pallidum crosses
the placenta and
infects the fetus