A sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum, a microscopic organism called a spirochete. This worm-like, spiral-shaped organism infects people by burrowing into the moist mucous membranes of the mouth or genitals. From there, the spirochete produces a non-painful ulcer known as a chancre. There are three stages of syphilis: {{}}The first (primary) stage: This involves the formation of the chancre. At this stage, syphilis is highly contagious. The primary stage can last one to five weeks. The disease can be transmitted from any contact with one of the ulcers, which are teeming with spirochetes. If the ulcer is outside of the vagina or on the scrotum, the use of condoms may not help in preventing transmission. Likewise, if the ulcer is in the mouth, merely kissing the infected individual can spread syphilis. Even without treatment, the early infection resolves on its own in most women. The second (secondary) stage: However, 25 percent of cases will proceed to the secondary stage of syphilis, which lasts four to six weeks. This phase can include hair loss; a sore throat; white patches in the nose, mouth, and vagina; fever; headaches; and a skin rash. There can be lesions on the genitals that look like genital warts, but are caused by spirochetes rather than the wart virus. These wart-like lesions, as well as the skin rash, are highly contagious. The rash can occur on the palms of the hands, and the infection can be transmitted by casual contact. The third (tertiary) stage: This final stage of the disease involves the brain and heart, and is usually no longer contagious. At this point, however, the infection can cause extensive damage to the internal organs and the brain, and can lead to death. Diagnosis is by blood test, either the rapid plasma reagin (RPR) or Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test. Treatment is with antibiotics. The name "syphilis" was coined by Hieronymus Fracastorius (Girolamo Fracastoro). Fracastorius was a true Renaissance man; he wrote on the temperature of wines, the rise of the Nile, poetry, the mind, and the soul; he was an astronomer, geographer, botanist, mathematician, philosopher and, last but not least in the present context, a physician. In 1530 he published the poem "Syphilis sive morbus gallicus" (Syphilis or the French Disease) in which the name of the disease first appeared. Perhaps more importantly, Fracastorius went on in 1546 to write "On Contagion" ("De contagione et contagiosis morbis et curatione"), the first known discussion of the phenomenon of contagious infection: a landmark in the history of infectious disease.
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An acute and chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum and transmitted by direct contact, usually through sexual intercourse. After an incubation period of 12–30 days, the first symptom is a chancre, followed by slight fever and other constitutional symptoms (primary s.), followed by a skin eruption of various appearances with mucous patches and generalized lymphadenopathy (secondary s.), and subsequently by the formation of gummas, cellular infiltration, and functional abnormalities usually resulting from cardiovascular and central nervous system lesions (tertiary s.). SYN: lues venerea, malum venereum. [Mod. L. s. (syphilid-), (?) fr. a poem, S. sive Morbus Gallicus, by Fracastorius, Syphilus being a shepherd and principal character]
- cardiovascular s. involvement of the cardiovascular system seen in late s., usually resulting in aortitis, aneurysm formation, and aortic valvular insufficiency.
- congenital s. s. acquired by the fetus in utero, thus present at birth. SYN: hereditary s., s. hereditaria.
- s. d'emblée s. occurring without an initial sore. [Fr. right away]
- early s. primary, secondary, or early latent s., before any tertiary manifestations have appeared.
- early latent s. infection with Treponema pallidum, the organism of s., after the primary and secondary phases have subsided, during the first year after infection, before any manifestations of tertiary s. have appeared.
- endemic s. SYN: nonvenereal s..
- s. hereditaria SYN: congenital s..
- s. hereditaria tarda s., believed to be congenital, but not manifesting itself until several years after birth.
- hereditary s. SYN: congenital s..
- late s. involvement of the cardiovascular or central nervous system, or the development of a gumma in any organ, due to infection with Treponema pallidum; usually several years to 2–3 decades after the initial infection. SYN: tertiary s..
- late benign s. late s., manifested by serologic evidence of infection, but without any clinical manifestations.
- late latent s. usually infectious in pregnant women only, who may pass the infection on to the fetus.
- latent s. infection with Treponema pallidum, after the manifestations of primary and secondary s. have subsided (or were never noticed), before any manifestations of tertiary s. have appeared.
- meningovascular s. a rare manifestation of secondary or tertiary s. characterized by mild, nonsuppurative, chronic inflammation of the leptomeninges and an intracranial or spinal angiitis.
- nonvenereal s. s. caused by organisms closely related to Treponema pallidum; spread by personal, but not necessarily venereal, contact; usually acquired in childhood, most common in areas of poverty and overcrowding; rare in the United States; includes yaws, pinta and bejel. SYN: endemic s..
- primary s. the first stage of s. See s..
- secondary s. the second stage of s. See s..
- tertiary s. SYN: late s..

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syph·i·lis 'sif-(ə-)ləs n a chronic contagious usu. venereal and often congenital disease that is caused by a spirochete of the genus Treponema (T. pallidum) and if left untreated produces chancres, rashes, and systemic lesions in a clinical course with three stages continued over many years called also lues see PRIMARY SYPHILIS, SECONDARY SYPHILIS, TERTIARY SYPHILIS Syph·i·lus 'sif-ə-ləs literary character. Syphilus is the hero of the 1530 Latin poem „Syphilis or the French Disease,” which was written by the Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro. Syphilus is a swineherd who blasphemes a sun god and as a punishment is afflicted with a disease.

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a chronic sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body. Bacteria usually enter the body during sexual intercourse, through the mucous membranes of the vagina or urethra, but they may rarely be transmitted through wounds in the skin or scratches. Bacteria may also pass from an infected pregnant woman across the placenta to the developing fetus, resulting in the disease being present at birth (congenital syphilis).
The primary symptom - a hard ulcer (chancre) at the site of infection - forms 2-4 weeks after exposure. Neighbouring lymph nodes enlarge about two weeks later. Secondary stage symptoms appear about two months after infection and include fever, malaise, general enlargement of lymph nodes, and a faint red rash on the chest that persists for 1-2 weeks. After months, or even years, the disease enters its tertiary stage with widespread formation of tumour-like masses (gumma). Tertiary syphilis may cause serious damage to the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular syphilis) or to the brain and spinal cord (neurosyphilis), resulting in tabes dorsalis, blindness, and general paralysis of the insane.
Treatment is with doxycycline, tetracycline, or erythromycin. Syphilis can be diagnosed by several tests. Compare bejel.
syphilitic adj.

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syph·i·lis (sifґĭ-lis) [Syphilus, a shepherd infected with the disease in a poem by Fracastorius (Girolamo Fracastorio, Italian physician and poet, 1483–1553); the poet may have derived the name from Gr. syn together + philein to love, or from Gr. siphlos crippled, maimed] a subacute to chronic infectious disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum, usually transmitted by sexual contact or acquired in utero, although it can be contracted by direct contact with infected tissues or blood or with contaminated fomites. Untreated syphilis usually progresses through three clinical stages (primary, secondary, and tertiary s.), with a latent period (latent syphilis) intervening between the first two and the last. The time of duration of each stage varies, and they are often noticeably shortened in immunocompromised patients. There is also an endemic variety of syphilis (see endemic s.). syphilitic adj

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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