Is syphilis again on the rise in Europe? | Health and Medicine

More than 33,000 infections

Is syphilis again on the rise in Europe?

Syphilis has long been suppressed, but infections have been increasing for several years. Experts now report alarming numbers for Europe. How did Germany cut?

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control registered 33,189 cases of syphilis in Europe in 2017. Young men are infected more often.

Photo: AP

Is syphilis again on the rise in Europe?

The number of syphilis cases confirmed in Europe has increased considerably in recent years. Men aged 25 to 34 are particularly susceptible to contracting the sexually transmitted disease compared to women and other age groups.

This is especially true for men who have sex with men and live in urban areas, according to a report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

For the report, the ECDC analyzed the evolution of syphilis from 2007 to 2017 in 30 states – the EU, Norway and Iceland. As a result, the number of confirmed cases per year has increased by nearly 70% since 2010, reaching a record level of 33,189. In 2016, 29,944 confirmed infections were recorded.

This means that for the first time since the early 2000s, there are more confirmed cases of syphilis than cases of HIV in Europe, said the Stockholm-based center. According to ECDC data, 25,353 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2017, after more than 31,000 cases the year before.

"The growth in the number of syphilis infections we're seeing in Europe and in other countries around the world is the result of several factors, such as condomless sex and with multiple sexual partners, associated with a lesser fear of being infected with HIV, "said the manager. Andrew Amato-Gauci, ECDC Program for HIV and Venereal Diseases. Between 2007 and 2017, the ECDC recorded a total of 260,505 confirmed cases of syphilis.

In Germany, from 2007 to 2017, the number of cases increased significantly from 4 to 9.1 cases per 100,000 Germans, compared to a pan-European rate of 7.1 per 100,000. This corresponds to 7473 infections in Germany. As a result, Germany was one of five countries where the rate had more than doubled since 2010, with Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Malta. Estonia and Romania, however, recorded a significant decline.

By the end of 2018, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin had reported that the increase in the number of syphilis infections in Germany was continuing. According to a RKI report, in Berlin and Hamburg in particular, an above average number of people fell ill compared to the number of inhabitants.

In Germany, Aidshilfe considers that the increased use of condoms, partly due to improved HIV treatment, explains the increase in the number of cases registered in Germany. Another reason is probably improved test behavior. As a result, gay and bisexual men have been increasingly called to regular syphilis testing.

Particularly in the 1980s, bacterial infection had been suppressed with the spread of HIV / AIDS and safer sex. For years, the trend has been in the opposite direction. Syphilis often works without symptoms. In other cases, usually a few days or weeks after the infection, an ulcer occurs, for example on the penis, without pain. If the disease is not treated with antibiotics, other signs such as fever, fatigue, headache, joint or muscle pain and swollen lymph nodes may ensue. Years after infection, damage to the brain and blood vessels is possible.