According to official data, syphilis rates have not been this high in the United States since 1950

  • The syphilis epidemic in the United States continues, with a worrying 9% increase in cases of infection in 2022, the highest since 1950.
  • Officials are alarmed by the increasing spread of syphilis among women and newborns.
  • Although syphilis is less common, it is considered more dangerous because it can cause serious health complications, including paralysis.

According to a new federal government report on sexually transmitted diseases in adults, the syphilis epidemic in the United States is not slowing down, with the rate of infection cases increasing by 9% in 2022.

But there’s unexpected good news: The rate of new gonorrhea cases has fallen for the first time in a decade.

It’s not clear why syphilis increased 9% while gonorrhea fell 9%, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that it was too early to say whether a new downward trend is emerging in the latter.

Health officials say sexually transmitted disease cases have accelerated, but doctors hope old drugs can slow rising rates

They focus primarily on syphilis, which is less common than gonorrhea or chlamydia but is considered more dangerous. The total number of cases exceeded 207,000 in 2022, the highest number in the United States since 1950, according to data released Tuesday.

Shown is a tissue sample containing numerous corkscrew-shaped, dark-colored spirochetes of the type Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis. The syphilis epidemic in the United States continues to worsen, according to a new government report dated January 30, 2024. (Van Orden/CDC via AP, skip file)

And while gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected, the disease is also increasing in heterosexual men and women and is increasingly affecting newborns, CDC officials said.

Syphilis is a bacterial disease that can appear as painless sores in the genital area, but can ultimately lead to paralysis, hearing loss, dementia and even death if left untreated.

In the 1940s, when antibiotics were widely used, there was a sharp decline in new syphilis infections in the United States.

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