Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis. Other human diseases caused by relatedTreponema pallidum include yaws (subspeciespertenue), pinta (subspecies carateum), and bejel (subspecies endemicum). The signs and symptoms of syphilis vary depending in which of the four stages it presents (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). The primary stage classically presents with a single chancre (a firm, painless, non-itchy skin ulceration), secondary syphilis with a diffuse rash which frequently involves the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, latent syphilis with little to no symptoms, and tertiary syphilis with gummas, neurological, or cardiac symptoms. It has, however, been known as "the great imitator" due to its frequent atypical presentations. Diagnosis is usually via blood tests; however, the bacteria can also be detected using dark field microscopy. Syphilis can be effectively treated with antibiotics, specifically the preferred intramuscular penicillin G (given intravenously for neurosyphilis), or else ceftriaxone, and in those who have a severe penicillin allergy, oral doxycycline or azithromycin.
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