When it comes to Syphilis, whilst originally it’s associated with centuries past, its been on the rise in England over the last ten years.

The disease was in effect eradicated in the UK in the mid-80s, only to re-emerge in 1999. We take a look at the facts and find out more about Syphilis below…

Syphilis – The Facts

The disease is a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics, its symptoms include:

    • Sores around the genitals and mouth
    • A rash on the hands and feet
    • Tiredness
    • Headaches and joint pain
    • A high temperature


If it’s left untreated, over many years it can spread to the brain and be fatal, syphilis is still relatively uncommon, making up fewer than 2% of all sexually transmitted infections, (STIs) diagnosed in England in 2017.

Dealing with a small number of cases overall makes the percentage increase look more dramatic, 1000 extra cases in 2017, equated to a 20% rise. The same number of extra cases of chlamydia would represent less than a 1% rise.

There has been a steady rise with the number of diagnosed cases, more than doubling in a decade, with 7,137 last year, up from 2,874 in 2008.
The increase in syphilis was almost all among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, according to the agency, Public Health England, accounting for 78% of cases diagnosed in the last year.

Public Health England said it plans to increase numbers and frequency of tests in populations at higher risks of infections, in order to promote early detection and treatment.

More testing

Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are both highly contagious and unlike some STIs can be contracted through oral sex. As well as changes to sexual behaviour, more and more people are attending STI clinics, this means that more cases of syphilis are being diagnosed. So that’s likely to explain part of the rise. Men who have sex with men are also more likely to get tested, so it’s possible there are more people with undiagnosed infections in the rest of the population.

Sexual health clinic attendances have increased by more than 10% between 2013 and 2016 and by about 30% among men who have sex with men. The increase in infections has outstripped the increase in testing, this suggests that there’s been a genuine rise in STIs. It’s also though that sexual health service budget cuts could also be a possible cause of this.

Syphilis testing from Broadgate GP’s private London sexual health clinic

For more information, or to book a private appointment for an STI test with our professional GP, simply call Broadgate GP today.