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Syphilis is a Sexually Transmitted Infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Despite being known for centuries, syphilis remains surrounded by various myths and misunderstandings that can hinder its treatment and prevention.



Syphilis, a disease long shrouded in myths and stigma, actually holds facts that can reshape our understanding of this condition. This information not only helps dispel the negative stigma surrounding it but also provides a more comprehensive view of how syphilis affects individuals and society at large. With a better understanding of syphilis, efforts can be enhanced towards prevention, early diagnosis, and more effective treatment.


Myth 1: Syphilis Only Affects Unhygienic People

One of the biggest myths about syphilis is that it only affects people who are unhygienic. The fact is that syphilis can affect anyone, regardless of their personal hygiene. Syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person, including vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse. While condom use can reduce the risk of transmission, it does not eliminate it entirely.


Myth 2: Syphilis Can Heal Itself Without Treatment

There is a belief that syphilis can resolve itself without needing treatment. In fact, syphilis will not go away without medical intervention. If left untreated, syphilis can progress through several stages, from primary to secondary, latent, and tertiary stages. In the tertiary stage, syphilis can cause serious damage to organs such as the heart, brain, and nervous system, potentially resulting in fatal outcomes.


Myth 3: Syphilis Only Affects Adults

Many believe that syphilis only affects adults. The fact is, syphilis can also affect infants born to infected mothers, known as congenital syphilis. Infants with congenital syphilis can experience serious complications including bone abnormalities, anemia, enlarged liver and spleen, and nervous system damage. Therefore, detecting and treating syphilis in pregnant women is crucial to prevent transmission to the baby.


Myth 4: Syphilis Is Easily Diagnosed Due to Clear Symptoms

There is a misconception that syphilis always presents clear symptoms, making it easy to diagnose. In fact, symptoms of syphilis can vary widely and often go unnoticed or mistaken for other conditions. Primary stage symptoms, such as painless sores (chancres), can appear on genital, anal, or oral areas and may not be recognized. Secondary stage symptoms may include skin rashes, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Due to these nonspecific symptoms, many people are unaware that they are infected with syphilis.


Myth 5: Syphilis Treatment Is Difficult and Ineffective

Some people believe that treating syphilis is difficult and ineffective. The shocking fact is that syphilis is actually very treatable, especially when diagnosed early. The main treatment for syphilis is antibiotics, typically penicillin injections. This treatment is highly effective in clearing the infection, particularly in its early stages. However, it is crucial to complete the full course of treatment as prescribed by a doctor to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.



Infection screening is the first step in accessing early care and treatment to prevent infection transmission. One method of screening is through a test using a syphilis rapid test device as an initial assessment. An example of such a product is the Accu-Tell® Rapid Syphilis Test (Whole Blood/Serum/Plasma).


Picture 1. Accu-Tell® Rapid Syphilis Test (Whole Blood/Serum/Plasma)


This device is used to qualitatively detect the presence of antibodies (IgG and IgM) against Treponema pallidum (TP) in whole blood, serum, or plasma to aid in the diagnosis of syphilis. Each box contains all necessary components: 25 test cassettes, 25 plastic capillary pipettes, 1 bottle of buffer, and 1 Insert Pack. The test provides results within 5 minutes. Results are considered positive if two colored lines appear in the control (C) and test (T) regions. Color intensity may vary depending on the concentration of Treponema pallidum antibodies in the specimen. Even if a faint line appears in the test region (T), it can still be considered a positive result.


Myths about syphilis can hinder effective prevention and treatment efforts. It is important to disseminate accurate information about this disease to raise awareness about risks, symptoms, and the importance of early treatment. By debunking myths and revealing factual information, we can reduce stigma and increase awareness about the importance of routine screening and safe sexual practices.



  1. Augenbraun, M. H. Diagnosis and management of syphilis. American Family Physician, 57(8), 1901-1910.
  2. Workowski, K. A., & Bolan, G. A. (2015). Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recommendations and Reports, 64(RR-03), 1-137.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Syphilis - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed). Retrieved from
  4. Hook, E. W., & Peeling, R. W. Syphilis control—a continuing challenge. New England Journal of Medicine, 351(2), 122-124.
  5. World Health Organization (WHO). (2016). WHO guidelines for the treatment of Treponema pallidum (syphilis). Retrieved from 


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