What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can cause serious health sequelae if not adequately treated.

Syphilis within the State of Georgia

In 2017, a total of 1,489 cases of primary and secondary syphilis were reported in Georgia. This is a 139 case increase from the previous year. When compared to other states in the U.S. Georgia ranked 4th in reported primary and secondary syphilis.

Additional Information and Facts

CDC Fact Sheet on Syphilis

Testing and Treatment

Who should be tested for syphilis?

Any person with signs or symptoms suggestive of syphilis should be tested for syphilis. Also, anyone with an oral, anal, or vaginal sex partner who has been recently diagnosed with syphilis should be tested for syphilis. Some people should be tested (screened) for syphilis even if they do not have symptoms or know of a sex partner who has syphilis. Anyone who is sexually active should discuss his or her risk factors with a health care provider and ask whether he or she should be tested for syphilis or other STDs. In addition, providers should routinely test for syphilis in persons who

  • are pregnant;
  • are sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM);
  • are living with HIV and are sexually active;
  • are taking PrEP for HIV prevention.
What is the treatment for syphilis?

For detailed treatment recommendations, please refer to the 2015 CDC STD Treatment Guidelines. The recommended treatment for adults and adolescents with primary, secondary, or early latent syphilis is  Benzathine penicillin G 2.4 million units administered intramuscularly in a single dose. The recommended treatment for adults and adolescents with late latent syphilis or latent syphilis of unknown duration is Benzathine penicillin G 7.2 million units total, administered as 3 doses of 2.4 million units administered intramuscularly each at weekly intervals. The recommended treatment for neurosyphilis and ocular syphilis is Aqueous crystalline penicillin G 18-24 million units per day, administered as 3-4 million units intravenously every 4 hours or continuous infusion, for 10-14 days. Treatment will prevent disease progression, but it might not repair damage already done. 

Selection of the appropriate penicillin preparation is important to properly treat and cure syphilis.  Combinations of some penicillin preparations (e.g., Bicillin C-R, a combination of benzathine penicillin, and procaine penicillin) are not appropriate replacements for benzathine penicillin, as these combinations provide inadequate doses of penicillin. Although data to support the use of alternatives to penicillin is limited, options for non-pregnant patients who are allergic to penicillin may include doxycycline, tetracycline, and neurosyphilis, potentially ceftriaxone. These therapies should be used only in conjunction with close clinical and laboratory follow-up to ensure appropriate serological response and cure. Persons who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed. Persons with syphilis must notify their sex partners so that they also can be tested and receive treatment if necessary.

Page last updated 05/10/2021

Content source:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 26). CDC – Syphilis Treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 13). STD Facts - Syphilis (Detailed). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention