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2003-05-20 02:29:55 (UTC)

Syphilis Microbiology Paper

Treponema pallidum

by
xxxxx xxxxxx

14 May 2003

Treponema pallidum is a bacterium that causes a wellknown
and deadly disease. It is a bacterium, and causes
reactions within the body that can be mistaken for
something else. It has an interesting and multicultural
history. Its history was well documented. Treponema
pallidum has three entirely separate and distinct stages to
its attack upon the human body.
Treponema pallidum is a spirochete bacterium, corkscrew
shaped into tight coils. It needs moisture to survive, and
averages 810 microns in length. Treponema pallidum prefers
to reside inside body tissues and body fluids. It causes
the widely known sexually transmitted disease (STD) of
venereal syphilis. Syphilis, or Treponema pallidum is
transmitted through contact. If a chancre sore is touched,
that can cause transmission. The most common ways of
transmission are oral, anal, and genital contact, sexual
intercourse, or through anal or oral sex. Treponema
pallidum also enters easily through the eyes or mucous
membranes. Currently, penicillin easily kills Treponema
pallidum, as it has not yet developed a resistance to
penicillin. Mercury treatments were once widespread in
older times to treat the disease. In 1836, potassium
iodide was discovered to be a helpful treatment for
syphilis. The first drug used for syphilis was
arsphenamine, under the brand name Salvarsan discovered in
1909 by German scientist Paul Ehrlich.
Treponema pallidum has an interesting history. Outbreaks
in the 1480s and 1490s led to naming wars. Some people
that were not Italians called it the Italian or the
Neapolitan disease, and the Spanish disease by most of
those who thought Christopher Columbus and/or his crew
brought it back from the colonies. It had been seen in
Germany previous to the return of Columbus, so it was then
called the German disease. It became known as the French
disease for the longest, since the French king conquered
Naples in the height of the disease’s outbreak. To quote a
herbalist, Ludovico Moscardo, “... not knowing who to
blame, the Spaniards call it the French disease, the French
the Neapolitan disease, and the Germans the Spanish
disease.” In 1998, it was discovered and published that
syphilis was a disease that could be utterly killed. It
was a bacterium, one that only appeared in humans, and had
no animal hosts. It has not developed or shown any signs
of developing resistance to penicillin. The genes that
promote motility are identical in the known genes in B.
burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. The genome of
Treponema pallidum codes for such a smooth cell surface
that the human immune response rarely catches it.
About 50,000 people are diagnosed with syphilis each year,
but that is not a constant number. The number of cases in
the United States peaked in the 1940s and then had a
resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s. The rise in the ‘70s
and ‘80s began mainly with homosexual sex, men having sex
with other men. Syphilis is spreading heterosexually now
from mother to child as the child is born. Fourteen to
thirtysix percent of people that are HIV positive also
have syphilis. The disease of syphilis has multiple
stages. Primary syphilis, the first stage, can appear 10
to 90 days after infection. The first symptom is a chancre
or ulcer at the site where infection occurred. This becomes
slightly painful in a very few cases, usually when other
bacteria enters the chancre. Usually the chancre is
painless. People with primary syphilis often do not notice
they have it especially when it is in a not visible place,
since the chancre is usually painless.
If the person has not yet been treated, then several months
later Treponema pallidum takes a stronger and nastier step
forward. The bacterium enters the bloodstream from the
lesion. It can cause a nonitching rash over the entire
body, swelling of all lymph nodes, flu symptoms, fever,
sore throat, joint aches, headaches, patchy hair loss and
wartlike lesions on genitals. Many of these symptoms can
be mistaken for the flu or another similar virus.
Treponema pallidum is most infectious in the primary and
secondary stages. After the secondary stage, the symptoms
resolve, and if they have not been treated, the bacteria is
still there even though it may wait for decades.
When a person reaches a next stage, it is tertiary, or late
syphilis. This is rare in the age of antibiotics. The
infection damages any and all organ systems at this point.
It is called neurosyphilis when it affects the brain. Few
reach the life threatening stage because new blood tests
have been designed to detect the antibodies the body makes
when responding to syphilis. Infection can take up to 3
months to register on a blood test. When a chancre sore is
seen, it can be swabbed and examined under a microscope to
screen for the bacteria easily. To treat syphilis,
penicillin must be injected, rather than taken orally.
Some people’s conditions worsen after the shot, but it is
in reaction to the bacteria dying quickly and resolves
within 24 hours.
Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum,
which masks its attack on the human body with a super
smooth cell membrane and common symptoms of other more
common illnesses. The primary stage is often unnoticed at
all. The secondary stage is very similar to the flu,
caused by the influenza viruses. Treponema pallidum also
had a colorful history—enough to warrant several poems
along with name calling of diseases. The political history
in Europe at the times of the outbreaks in the late
fifteenth century led to a controversy over the origin of
the disease. Syphilis, while being hard to catch in its
early stages is still relatively easy to treat when finally
diagnosed.

Bibliography
1. Syphilis. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May
20, 2003, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.

2. Byers, A. (1999). Sexually Transmitted Diseases: a
hot issue. Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow
Publishers, Inc.
3. Curran, C. (1998) Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
4. Gould, S. (2000, October) Syphilis and the Shepherd
of Atlantis. Natural History Retrieved 19 May 2003 from
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m1134/8_109/65913170/p1/art
icle.jhtml


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