• Syphilis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Treponema Pallidum. It is usually transmitted through unprotected sex. The disease progresses in stages and can lead to severe complications. It usually begins as a painless ulcer in the genital area, mouth, or other body organ. In advanced stages of the disease, it can cause serious damage to the heart and brain. However, when the disease is diagnosed early, it can be treated relatively easily with antibiotics.

    The stages of the disease are:
    The first sign of the disease are painless ulcers in the site of infection ("Chancre"). The ulcer can appear on the genitals or around/inside the mouth and are very contagious. They can infect anyone with whom the person have close contact (usually during sex). The ulcers disappear within 2-6 weeks.
    The second stage include skin rash and sore throat. These symptoms usually disappear within a few weeks. After the disappearance of the symptoms of the second stage, the disease enters a latent (hidden) period that can last for years. During this period the disease is not manifested by any symptoms.
    The third and most dangerous phase begins at the end of the latent period. At this stage the disease might involve the nervous system (brain and spine) and other organs.
    The course of the disease
    If the disease is diagnosed early, it can be easily treated with antibiotics, usually penicillin. If the disease is not diagnosed and treated, it can deteriorate into a serious and dangerous disease and cause conditions such as stroke, paralysis, vision and death.
    The number of new cases of the disease has been rising since 2000. Almost two-thirds of the new cases are in men who have sex with men. The prevalence of the disease is also on the rise in young women.
    In 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Health reported an alert of a syphilis outbreak, due to the increasing numbers of infected individuals among men who have sex with men, some of whom are HIV positive.