Surfing with spirochaetes: an ongoing syphilis outbreak in Brighton

Poulton, M, Dean, G L, Williams, D I, Carter, P, Iversen, A and Fisher, M (2001) Surfing with spirochaetes: an ongoing syphilis outbreak in Brighton. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 77 (5). pp. 319-21. ISSN 1368-4973

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Background/objectives: There has been a recent shift in the epidemiology of early syphilis in the developed world with sporadic outbreaks on a historic low level of background disease. Here we describe an ongoing outbreak of syphilis in Brighton.

Methods: Data collected on all patients with a diagnosis of early infectious syphilis at Brighton GUM clinic.

Results: 30 cases of early syphilis were diagnosed over a 25 month period beginning in July 1999. 28 were homosexual or bisexual men, giving a rate of 134 cases per 100 000 homosexual men. The cases reported a median of three sexual contacts (range 1–50) in the preceding 6 months and 77% had concurrent regular and casual partners. 83% of contacts were casual and untraceable. Over one third (11) of these cases reported oral sex as their only risk factor for syphilis acquisition and were unaware of this transmission route. 70% were diagnosed with primary or secondary infection, the remaining 30% being asymptomatic with early latent infection. Eight of the cases were HIV positive and a further eight remain untested for HIV. At least one concurrent STI was found in 40% of cases. Regular outbreak control meetings, involving relevant healthcare professionals, were held to plan appropriate interventions.

Conclusion: The high rate of casual and untraceable contacts in this outbreak suggest that alternative control measures are necessary, including on-site testing and further health education regarding the oral transmission of syphilis. Continued vigilance for syphilis is essential, especially in those patients who are HIV positive.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2012 10:01
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2020 16:14
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