Syphilis classification

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Syphilis may be classified according to the development of disease into 2 groups: congenital and acquired. Acquired syphilis may be classified further into 4 subtypes: primary, secondary, latent and tertiary syphilis.


There is no established clasification system for syphilis. However, it may be classified into following subtypes:[1][2][3][4][5][4][6][7][8][9][10]


Congenital Syphilis is transmitted from mother to child by vertical transmission during pregnancy, or during delivery in cases of maternal active lesions. Congenital syphilis may be classified according to latency of onset as follows:

  • Early: Manifests before 2 years of age
  • Late: Manifests after 2 years of age


The mode of transmission in acquired syphilis is primarily by direct contact with infectious lesions (usually on oral or genital contact). Acquired syphilis presents in progressive stages as follows:



Latent syphilis

Stage of syphilis in which patient is serologically positive for treponema pallidum but is asymptomatic.

  • Early latent: Asymptomatic < 2 years
  • Late latent: Asymptomatic > 2 years

Tertiary or Gummatous syphilis

Late syphilis characterised by complications involving:

  • Other parts of the body


  1. French P (2007). "Syphilis". BMJ. 334 (7585): 143–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.39085.518148.BE. PMC 1779891. PMID 17235095.
  2. Chakraborty R, Luck S (2008). "Syphilis is on the increase: the implications for child health". Arch Dis Child. 93 (2): 105–9. doi:10.1136/adc.2006.103515. PMID [uid 18208988[uid]] Check |pmid= value (help).
  3. Accessed on September 19, 2016
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lago EG, Vaccari A, Fiori RM (2013). "Clinical features and follow-up of congenital syphilis". Sex Transm Dis. 40 (2): 85–94. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0b013e31827bd688. PMID 23324972.
  5. Woods CR (2005). "Syphilis in children: congenital and acquired". Semin Pediatr Infect Dis. 16 (4): 245–57. doi:10.1053/j.spid.2005.06.005. PMID 16210105.
  6. Rathbun KC (1983). "Congenital syphilis". Sex Transm Dis. 10 (2): 93–9. PMID 6318372.
  7. Hook EW, Peeling RW (2004). "Syphilis control--a continuing challenge". N Engl J Med. 351 (2): 122–4. doi:10.1056/NEJMp048126. PMID 15247352.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kennedy JL, Barnard JJ, Prahlow JA (2006). "Syphilitic coronary artery ostial stenosis resulting in acute myocardial infarction and death". Cardiology. 105 (1): 25–9. doi:10.1159/000088337. PMID 16179782.
  9. "Case records of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Weekly clinicopathological exercises. Case 10-1998. A 46-year-old man with chest pain and coronary ostial stenosis". N Engl J Med. 338 (13): 897–903. 1998. doi:10.1056/NEJM199803263381308. PMID 9518283.
  10. Singh AE, Romanowski B (1999). "Syphilis: review with emphasis on clinical, epidemiologic, and some biologic features". Clin Microbiol Rev. 12 (2): 187–209. PMC 88914. PMID 10194456.
  11. Musher, Daniel M. "Early syphilis." Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill (1999): 479-487.
  12. Chapel TA (1980). "The signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis". Sex Transm Dis. 7 (4): 161–4. PMID 7455863.
  13. Pereira TM, Fernandes JC, Vieira AP, Basto AS (2007). "Tertiary syphilis". Int J Dermatol. 46 (11): 1192–5. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03438.x. PMID 17988342.
  14. Berger JR, Dean D (2014). "Neurosyphilis". Handb Clin Neurol. 121: 1461–72. doi:10.1016/B978-0-7020-4088-7.00098-5. PMID 24365430.

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