Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). How is syphilis transmitted? It spreads from person to person by direct contact with the syphilitic sore, also known as a chancre. This often occurs during sexual activity. These sores typically present around the area of the external genitals, around the anus, in the rectum, or in the vagina.
- Sexual Transmission – The transmission of syphilis most commonly occurs during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Contact with a chancre on the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, lips, or inside the mouth, creates a high chance of infection.
- Vertical Transmission (From pregnant mother to fetus) – If you are a pregnant mother with syphilis, and are expecting to deliver soon, you may transmit the infection to the unborn child. This usually results in a low birth weight baby, delivery complications (including pre-term deliveries), or stillbirths.
- Transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs) – It is possible to transmit syphilis through blood transfusions. If the donor has syphilis, the recipient is at risk of developing syphilis. This is a rare occurrence, due to donor blood screening.
The sharing of needles, typically seen in persons who use illicit IV drugs, can also lead to the transmission of the infection. For healthcare professionals, accidentally pricking themselves with used needles can also lead to the transmission of the infection.