Syphilis cases on the rise among young men in Japan

Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis
Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis
TOKYO (TR) – Data released on Saturday revealed that the number of cases of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis exceeded 1,000 last year for the first time since current statistics began, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Apr. 6).

According to the Tokyo branch of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the number of cases recorded in 2013 totaled, an increase by 40 percent over the year before. In 2010, the total number was 621, a figure that has jumped in each of the three subsequent years.

Of those infected last year, 989 were men, with the majority being between the age of 25 and 39.

The institute, which began keeping records of patient infections in 2000, indicated that the cause of the increase in cases is unknown but speculates that the increase is due to sexual contact between males.

“Many patients have had sexual contact between the same men,” said Makoto Onishi, the head of the first bacterial infection research division of the institute. “It is probable that syphilis entered such a community.”

Syphilis, which is caused by a bacterium that enters wounded skin or mucous membrane, can be treated with antibiotics like penicillin. Initial symptoms include skin rashes but neurological problems can possibly follow in later stages.

Onishi said that abnormalities in skin color and composition should not be ignored. “To prevent spreading, it is best to be treated at an early stage,” said the researcher. “We hope people will undergo testing at the hospital without hesitation.”

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