For the first time since 2010, the number of cases of syphilis in Germany has not increased further. However, more than 7,000 people a year are still infected with the disease. This is from now published data of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for 2018 out. With 7332 cases, the number of illnesses was slightly below the level of the previous year (7476).
Syphilis is a bacterial disease that only occurs in humans. It is transferable from mother to child during sex, through blood and during pregnancy. Syphilis can be cured by antibiotics. Untreated, however, threaten long-term damage to the brain and blood vessels. Homosexuals and bisexual men are the most common in Germany.
Most infections per 100,000 inhabitants in one federal state continued to exist in Berlin with 32.5 cases, and the least in Thuringia (4.3). The federal average was 8.8 registered victims per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Epidemiological Bulletin of the RKI. Syphilis is notifiable.
Treatment with PrEP may indicate more cases of syphilis
It was noticeable, however, that the infection numbers in Berlin declined despite the peak value – by about twelve percent compared to 2017. One suspected reason is increased testing and treatment of syphilis in the context of pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV (PrEP), it says in the RKI Bulletin. In PrEP, HIV-negative people take a drug to protect themselves from HIV.
Although PrEP reduces the risk of HIV infection in unprotected sex, it does not prevent infection with other sexually transmitted diseases. Guidelines on prescribing the drugs therefore provide for regular testing for syphilis. As a result, the number of detected cases of syphilis usually increases, according to the analysis. Later, however, it could decline, as the spread of the pathogens in the population is reduced by more treatments.