While Minnesota state health officials reported decreases in several sexually transmitted infections (STI) in 2022–gonorrhea down 15 percent, chlamydia down 2 percent and HIV down 12 percent–syphilis cases in the state have risen 25 percent.
Syphilis cases rose to 1,832 during 2022, a 25% increase from 1,457 cases in 2021 and hitting the highest level in recent years. New infections continued to be centered primarily within the Twin Cities metropolitan area, though health officials noted a syphilis outbreak declared in 2021 in the Duluth area continues.
New syphilis cases in 2022 were mostly among males, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, the presence of syphilis among females and people who can become pregnant continues to be of concern, in part because of the risk of congenital syphilis.
Congenital syphilis cases increased 42% in 2022. Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant person with syphilis passes the infection on to their baby during pregnancy or at delivery. It can cause severe complications such as miscarriages and stillbirths. Infants born with congenital syphilis can suffer serious health problems, including deformed bones, enlarged liver and spleen, severe anemia, brain and nerve problems, and other complications.
Chlamydia remained the number one reported STD in the state, with 22,079 cases reported, a 2% decrease compared to 2021.
Gonorrhea remained the second most reported STD in Minnesota, with 8,161 cases reported in 2022, a 15% decrease.
Health officials cautioned that the COVID-19 pandemic may have had impacts on STD data that make direct year-over-year comparisons difficult.
“We cannot know the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on STD screening and treatment accessibility based on our data over the past few years,” said Christine Jones, STD, HIV and TB section manager for MDH. “But we can say for certain that STDs continue to be a major concern in Minnesota. STD and HIV screening and appropriate treatment are critical pieces of preventing long-term health problems and future spread of these diseases.”