In 2015, we reported on a big increase in syphilis cases in Japan where well over 2,000 cases were recorded, a four-fold increase from just five years earlier. Well, 2016 topped 2015, and topped it big, prompting health officials to form a special research team to find ways of stopping the spirochete sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Sailor Moon condom wrapper/Video Screen Shot
Sailor Moon condom wrapper/Video Screen Shot

According to hospital reports from across Japan, there were 4,259 syphilis cases from Jan. 1 to early December 2016, up 77 percent from the 2,412 cases logged in the same period in 2015, and up by more than seven-fold from a decade ago, according to a Japan Times report.

Why the surge? This is unclear to health officials; however, some factors pointed to include changes in sexual behavior in Japan’s youths and its adult entertainment business, as well as the surge in tourists from countries with high infection rates.

Like in 2015, Tokyo with it’s nightlife, still accounts for significant numbers of syphilis cases.

In November, an attempt to gain control of syphilis outbreak was introduced in the form of a condom distribution campaign with each prophylactic wrapped in pink, heart-shaped packages adorned with the blond, doe-eyed character Usagi Tsukino from the anime series, “Sailor Moon”.

The vast majority of syphilis cases in Japan are via heterosexual sex and the appointed research teams task is to find out how the disease is being spread.

Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. The most common way to get syphilis is by having sexual contact (oral, genital or anal) with an infected person. The secondary lesions are also infective and contact with them could transmit the bacteria. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby (congenital transmission).