Cases of syphilis in the UK look to be on the rise as numbers rise to the highest in 75 years. Diagnoses of the medieval disease increased by 15 per cent last year, with 8,700 diagnoses, the largest number since 1948. Meanwhile, the infection rate had trebled from 5.6 cases per 100,000 people in 2012 to 15.4 in 2022, WalesOnline reports.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said “increased testing” have played a part in the increased case numbers.
Dr Hamish Mohammed, consultant epidemiologist at the agency added: “But the scale of the increase strongly suggests that there is more transmission of these STIs within the population.
“There is some evidence to suggest that this may be due to more people having condomless sex with new or casual partners.”
The agency said cases of the disease have continued to rise and fall since it was first discovered, with notable spikes after both the First and Second World Wars.
The disease then appeared again in the 1960s before declining in the 1980s, most likely due to behavioural changes brought about by the emergence and awareness of the HIV virus and AIDS.
According to data from the UKHSA, the highest infection rate is in London, with 44.9 infections per 100,000 of the population, with 16 of the 20 local authority areas with the highest rates in the capital.
The UKHSA data shows syphilis disproportionally affects gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, as seven in ten cases diagnosed last year were in this group.
In London, Syphilis is most common in Lambeth with 143.3 infections per 100,000, followed by Southwark and Westminster.
Outside of London, Brighton and Hove has the highest rate, followed by Salford, Middlesbrough and Manchester.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria.
The NHS states: “It can be serious if it’s left untreated or passed on to a baby during pregnancy or childbirth.”
Symptoms of the disease include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches nd fatigue.