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Syphilis is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Pediatric Consult.

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  • Etiologic agent: Treponema pallidum
  • Can be congenital or acquired
  • Consider sexual abuse when syphilis diagnosed in young children.
  • All confirmed cases should be reported to the local public health department.


  • Congenital syphilis
    • Approximately 12.4 cases per 100,000 live births in 2015 (487 cases), mostly among blacks
    • Case fatality rate 6%; 82% of deaths are stillborn.
    • Occurs via vertical transmission and mostly transplacental, but natal transmission possible by contact with infectious lesions at time of delivery
    • Fetal infection can occur at any time of gestation
  • Acquired syphilis
    • Sexually transmitted
    • Highest among men who have sex with men (MSM)
    • Often facilitates transmission and acquisition of HIV. All persons with syphilis should be tested for HIV.
    • Open, moist mucocutaneous lesions are highly infectious for up to 24 hours after institution of treatment.

Risk Factors

  • Congenital syphilis
    • Lack of prenatal care
    • Maternal use of illicit drugs
    • Maternal HIV infection
  • Acquired syphilis
    • MSM
    • HIV infection, especially among MSM
    • Illicit drug use (especially crack cocaine)
    • Sexual abuse

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Cabana, Michael D., editor. "Syphilis." 5-Minute Pediatric Consult, 8th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Pediatrics Central, peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/617729/all/Syphilis.
Syphilis. In: Cabana MD, ed. 5-Minute Pediatric Consult. 8th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/617729/all/Syphilis. Accessed April 22, 2019.
Syphilis. (2019). In Cabana, M. D. (Ed.), 5-Minute Pediatric Consult. Available from https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/617729/all/Syphilis
Syphilis [Internet]. In: Cabana MD, editors. 5-Minute Pediatric Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 22]. Available from: https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/617729/all/Syphilis.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Syphilis ID - 617729 ED - Cabana,Michael D, BT - 5-Minute Pediatric Consult UR - https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/617729/all/Syphilis PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 8 DB - Pediatrics Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -