An ongoing debate has raged over the origins of Syphilis. The English called it the “French disease”. Academics in Bucharest in 2014 unearthed its linguistic history and found the French called it a Neapolitan disease.

The Germans called it French, the Russians called it Polish, and the Danish called it Spanish. The Turkish named it the “Christian disease” and in Northern India, the Muslims and Hindus held each other responsible, and both pointed the finger firmly at the Europeans.

Many well-known figures from the past, such as Scott Joplin, Franz Schubert, Friedrich Nietzsche, Al Capone, Lenin, and Edouard Manet are all believed to have contracted Syphilis.

Where Syphilis originates from is up for debate, but the real question is this; How big of a problem is Syphilis now and what is the future of this infection?

Syphilis is on the rise

Syphilis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world, with around six million infections each year.

Within the last 20 years there has been widespread global transmission of syphilis according to data published by Nature Microbiology in November 2021.

Global Data, Healthcare Intelligence Center, has predicted that Syphilis cases in males and females of all ages will grow from 990,051 to over 1.2 million by 2027 in the 16MM* countries.

Syphilis is on the rise

Recent research

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in collaboration with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the UK Health Security Agency mapped the recent resurgence of the disease globally.

They discovered nearly identical syphilis samples between 14 countries, with the global syphilis population made up of two lineages, SS14 and Nichols. This provides important insights into the genetic diversity of syphilis and implications for vaccine design and antimicrobial resistance.

What do the experts say?

Dr Helen Fifer, a senior participant of the paper from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), commented, “the explosion of syphilis cases in recent decades is hugely concerning. Anyone having sex with new or casual partners should use a condom and get tested – STIs can pose profound consequences to the health of individuals and the health of their current or future sexual partners”.

Author of the Wellcome Sanger Institute study, Dr Matthew Beale, added that, “the concerning thing from a public health perspective is that the presence of almost identical samples in numerous countries suggests the disease is being transmitted internationally on a regular basis. Syphilis is back and it is global”.

Get tested for Syphilis and your general sexual health

Better2Know is the world´s leading provider in private sexual health testing. If you are concerned about your sexual health, particularly Syphilis and other STIs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea or HIV, then speak with one of our highly trained personal advisors today by phone or live chat.

We test for individual infections like Syphilis but also provide comprehensive screens which will give you peace of mind. Early diagnosis, regular testing and treatment is important to avoid future health problems.

Our team is here to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you an overall view of your sexual health. We can organise confidential testing at a clinic near you, with a private nurse visit, or you can order a convenient home test kit.


[1] The Economist: Syphilis rates are rising relentlessly in Britain

[2] London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine: Genetic study suggests syphilis is back – and it’s global

[3] Image: Global Data, Healthcare Intelligence Center

*16MM countries are the United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea.

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