Syphilis You Cannot Catch

Syphilis has been called a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI), and in the USA it is. However  there is a form of syphilis that you can have, but you didn't catch. The condition is bejel, it is a non-venereal form of the disease. In third world countries it is known by a variety of names including belesh, dichuchwa, frenga, njovera, skerljevo, sahel and siti, depending upon the native language and culture. The disease is caused by the parasite Treponema palladium and it is detected by the same blood tests we use to detect syphilis in those who did acquire the disease sexually. But bejel is an endemic condition that is primarily in Bedouin tribes and in other pockets of the Middle East and parts of Africa. Like other endemic diseases at times it was very prevalent in these populations, and thus spread between children by direct contact and its spread is aided by living in unhygienic conditions. Sexually transmitted syphilis generally appears as a painless chancre in the genital region, bejel lesions usually occur in the skin or occasionally first around the mouth. Like venereal syphilis it can move to a prolonged skin rash stage, and then go into latency. During latent stages one would test positive for syphilis, but not have any symptoms of being ill. Unlike venereal syphilis it doesn't seem to progress to the neurological stage, perhaps because of the population wide natural immunity that they develop. It is treatable by fairly modest dosages of penicillin. In the US the dosages required to treat the venereal syphilitic condition greatly escalated after the advent of penicillin because of resistance. However, we are on the fourth generation of the antibiotics related to penicillin and in fact, we still use the first generation medications to treat syphilis.


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