Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium. The disease develops in stages and is most contagious in the primary and secondary stages. The symptoms of syphilis often manifest themselves in the form of infectious sores. The infection spreads when a person comes in contact with a sore or a mucous membrane region of an infected person's body, such as the mouth. Childbirth can also transmit syphilis; children born with the condition have congenital syphilis.
The symptoms of each stage of syphilis may overlap, occur at different times, or not manifest at all. Some people with syphilis remain asymptomatic for years. During the primary stage, sores or chancres develop where the bacteria first entered the body. The secondary stage includes the onset of an itchy rash that begins on the trunk of the body and laspreads. Other symptoms include fever, muscle aches, hair loss, and wart-like sores. Untreated, syphilis then moves into the latent stage, where there are no obvious symptoms. The final or tertiary stage may take years to develop, but complications can lead to neurological problems, tumors, heart problems, issues with childbirth, and a predisposition to HIV.
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