Syphilis: A Sexually Transmitted Disease Essay

1414 words - 6 pages

Although it is easily preventable, over 36,000 cases of syphilis are reported annually in the United States alone (“STD Facts-Syphilis” 2010). Treponema pallidum is the bacterium that causes syphilis. Being one of the most common STDs, syphilis is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease that acts quite differently from the other common STDs because it acts in stages. Fortunately, there are antibiotics to cure syphilis; however, there are not cures for the other health related problems that it causes.
Syphilis is a bacterial STD caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria. Syphilis is transmitted “through direct contact with a syphilis sore (“STD Facts-Syphilis” 2010).” The contagious sores can be chancre sores, which occur in the primary stage usually at the sign of infection, or a sore of the rash, which occurs in the secondary stage. Contact with these sores occurs most commonly through sexual contact, such as vaginal sex, anal sex, and other forms of sexual contact. The areas of the body that are most common to contract the bacteria are “regions of the body containing mucous membranes”, such as the “nasal lining, rectum, urethra, and vagina (Shmaefsky, Brian 2009).” The Treponema pallidum bacterium attaches to the mucous membranes (Shmaefsky, Brian 2009)”. This attachment structure is called a “bacterial ligand”, where the protein “attaches to chemicals such as sugars and proteins” and once this attachment occurs, the bacteria enters the bloodstream (Shmaefsky, Brian 2009). Syphilis attaches to cells and, overtime, slowly damages organs as the bacteria circulates through the bloodstream (“Syphilis” 2011). Another way to transmit syphilis is from mother-to-child. “Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to the babies they are carrying” through the placenta and vaginal birth (“STD Facts-Syphilis” 2010). Very uncommon, but syphilis can be transmitted through blood transfusions as well (Shmaefsky, Brian 2009). Syphilis cannot be transmitted through contact with “toilet seats, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils ("Syphilis Facts." 2011).”
Syphilis affects the body in four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. The first stage, the primary stage, begins to show symptoms approximately 3 weeks after contraction (“STD Facts-Syphilis” 2010). The first stage is marked by the appearance of a chancre sore, which usually appears at the sight of contraction of the bacteria. A chancre is a “small, hard, circular lesion” and this is where the bacteria grows and is highly contagious (Shmaefsky, Brian 2009). After about 3 weeks of the presence of the chancre sores, the sores go away, however, syphilis is still present in the body. Several weeks later, approximately 3-6 weeks, the secondary stage of syphilis begins to show, the skin rash. Characteristics of the rash include “rough, red, or reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet”, also...

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