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In 2021, more than 167,000 new cases of acquired syphilis and 74,000 cases in pregnant women were registered in Brazil. In the same year, another 27,000 occurrences of congenital syphilis were diagnosed, in addition to 192 deaths from this type of syphilis.

By June 2022, 79,500 cases of acquired syphilis, 31,000 records of syphilis in pregnant women and 12,000 cases of congenital syphilis had already been found in the country, totaling more than 122,000 new cases of the disease.

There are two main types of syphilis:

  • Acquired syphilis

Transmitted from one person to another during vaginal, anal or oral sex without using a condom.

  • Congenital syphilis

The pregnant woman transmits the disease to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. It can manifest right after birth or after two years of the child’s life. During pregnancy, syphilis can cause miscarriage or premature birth. It can also have serious consequences for the baby, such as deafness, blindness, bone alterations, malformation, mental deficiency, and may even lead to death.


The disease manifests itself according to the stage of development. Thus, it can be classified into primary syphilis, secondary syphilis, tertiary syphilis and latent syphilis.

In the primary phase, between 10 and 90 days after infection, wounds appear on the penis, vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, mouth or other places on the skin. This wound does not cause pain, itching, burning or pus and may be accompanied by lumps in the groin. The sore disappears on its own, even if it is not treated.

In secondary syphilis, the signs appear between six weeks and six months after the appearance and healing of the initial wound. Spots may appear all over the body, which are usually not itchy, including palms and soles. In addition to the spots, there may be fever, malaise, headache and swelling throughout the body. The stains disappear in a few weeks, even without treatment, giving a false impression of cure.

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Tertiary syphilis can appear between one and 40 years after the onset of infection and usually presents skin, bone, cardiovascular and neurological lesions.

In cases of latent syphilis, the disease is asymptomatic. In this scenario, it is defined as recent latent (up to one year of infection) or late latent (more than one year of infection). The duration of this phase is variable, and may be interrupted by the appearance of signs and symptoms of the secondary or tertiary form.

The rapid test for syphilis is practical, easy to perform and is offered free of charge in the services of the Unified Health System (SUS). The result comes out in a maximum of 30 minutes. The main treatment is with penicillin, also available at SUS with a medical prescription and with guidance from a health professional.