Bacterial infections

How Does Syphilis Affect The Body

Maria Victoria Malela
By Maria Victoria Malela. Updated: January 16, 2017
How Does Syphilis Affect The Body

Syphilis is a chronic sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Treponema palladium is the name of the bacteria, which is responsible for causing the primary apparition of a chancre, followed by a rash, and spreading eventually in the entire body, causing organ damage, which could potentially lead to death, if left untreated.

The human body is an extraordinary vehicle, known for its incredible ability to regenerate itself and fight off attacks through the means of the immune system. While outward signs of the presence of the bacteria can be divided into three stages, OneHowTo takes a close look into the progression of an untreated case to explain how syphilis affects the body.

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  1. Structure and identification
  2. Progression
  3. The cure

Structure and identification

Treponema Pallidum is characterized by its spiral shape. It is a spirochaete bacteria, only detectable using the dark field microscopy method. The most common way to diagnose the presence of treponema pallidum is to run a serology test, however a direct sample of a lesion on a patient can also be taken.

How Does Syphilis Affect The Body - Structure and identification


When a person contracts syphilis through unprotected sex and is inoculated with treponema pallidum through venereal contact with infected lesions, the bacteria instantly disseminatesand invades small blood vessels to damage them. A chancre is produced by the development of small areas with restricted blood supply. It is painless because the bacteria takes out the nerves.

The treponema pallidum bacteria carries three molecules which can potentially invade different types of tissues inside the body, and remain undetectable to the immune system, due to their size and also due to the time the decease takes to develop.

As the bacteria progresses into second stage, syphilis' affect on the body is no longer specific to the genital area. Weeks to months after the initial infection, a rash develops. This rash is primarily located on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Wart-like lesions may likewise appear on the genitals and perineum. The lesions contain accumulations of the bacteria and are highly contagious. As the lesions finally dissolve and we move into the tertiary stage of syphilis' affect on the body, the occurrence of soft, non-cancerous growths, also called gummas can be detected on the skin or internal organs, such as the liver, brain, heart, bones and other tissues.

The aorta or main artery in the human body may become inflamed. This condition is called syphilitic aortitis, it destroys the blood vessels that supply the walls of the aorta, restricts blood flow and causes smooth muscle cells to die, as they remain deprived from oxygen and nutrients. Syphilis also damages the posterior column of the spinal cord, by attacking the nerves in the dorsal, causing a loss of discriminative touch among other symptoms. Argyll Robertson pupils - a condition specific to neurosyphilis - is characterized by pupils not reacting to light. It was named after the Scottish ophthalmologist Douglas Argyll Robertson, who first described the condition.

In the case of congenital syphilis, treponema pallidum is responsible for causing dental conditions like widely spaced teeth characterized by notches on their biting surface. This case can also result in deafness or stillbirth in certain cases.

The cure

Syphilis is treatable with penicillin in every stage and in every infected individual. Tetracyclineis an alternative antibiotic which can also be used, in the case of patients allergic to penicillin, although it is advised to desensitize allergic patients, such as pregnant women, for an effective treatment.

How Does Syphilis Affect The Body - The cure

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Does Syphilis Affect The Body, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

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How Does Syphilis Affect The Body