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Official Publication of the Indian Association for the Study of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 44  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 95-96

Syphilis resurgence: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprosy, Government Medical College, Amritsar, Punjab, India

Date of Submission10-Feb-2022
Date of Decision10-Oct-2022
Date of Acceptance22-Oct-2022
Date of Web Publication09-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. B B Mahajan
Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprosy, Government Medical College, 443, B-Block, Amritsar, Punjab
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijstd.ijstd_19_22

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How to cite this article:
Kaur T, Mahajan M, Mahajan B B. Syphilis resurgence: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Sex Transm Dis 2023;44:95-6

How to cite this URL:
Kaur T, Mahajan M, Mahajan B B. Syphilis resurgence: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Sex Transm Dis [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 30];44:95-6. Available from:


Syphilis is an infectious disease caused by Treponema pallidum. Various host factors like high-risk sexual activity, migration, and travel contribute to the re-emergence and spread of syphilis. During the COVID pandemic, the patient's referral to sexually transmitted infection clinic for diagnosis and laboratory testing might have been affected. Hence, this study was carried out to give an insight into the changing trends of syphilis during the pre-COVID and COVID-19 pandemic in a tertiary care hospital of North India.

This retrospective study was conducted over 3 years divided as during the pre-COVID-19 era (September 2018February 2020; Group 1) and COVID-19 era (March 2020August 2021; Group 2) in a tertiary care institute. Only confirmed cases, that is, seropositive by both Venereal Disease Research Laboratory and Treponema pallidum hemagglutination, were included.

[Table 1] depicts the sociodemographic profile of 91 patients. In Group 1, the total number of patients was 41 and they belonged to rural background (58.5%), whereas in Group 2, the total number was 50 and the majority belonged to urban background (54%). In Group 1, one patient had primary syphilis and two had secondary syphilis. In Group 2, one patient had primary syphilis and four had secondary syphilis. The rest all the patients in both the groups presented with latent phase syphilis: in Group 1, 38 patients and in Group 2, 45 patients.
Table 1: Sociodemographic details of syphilis patients in the study

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In our study, urban predominance was seen during the COVID-19 era. The improved familiarity and availability of Internet, coupled with increased time spent alone, might have induced people to seek sex online in the “surface” and “dark” web.[1] Sexually associated transmission of COVID-19 has been postulated, as a result of person-to-person proximity and coupling with contact with body fluids.[2] Data from Madrid and Rome suggest a strong decrease in sexually transmitted diseases and syphilis during the lockdown, as a consequence of social isolation and closure of leisure venues, which reduced the opportunity for casual sexual encounters.[3],[4] In a study done by Bonato et al. during the COVID pandemic, despite the lockdown and fear for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection, risky sexual activity had not diminished, and there was a steady state of syphilis contagiousness even during the pandemic.[5] In our study, there was a slight increase in the number of newly diagnosed cases of syphilis during the COVID pandemic as compared to the pre-COVID era of the same duration (i.e. about 18 months), but it was not statistically significant. A rising trend of seroprevalence, though not statistically significant, was observed in pregnant women. Furthermore, there was no statistically significant differences for the age, gender, residence, marital status, or the stage of disease. Most of the patients in our study in both the groups were asymptomatic and had come for voluntary checkup (including emigrants and pregnant females for routine antenatal checkup) and can be due to increased awareness among the young. Nevertheless, the observation of increasing trends in certain vulnerable population such as HIV patients and pregnant women calls for continued and sustained efforts for case detection, treatment, and other preventive measures to contain the disease.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Hillis A, Leavey C, Kewley S, Church S, Van Hout MC. Sex tourism, disease migration and COVID-19: Lessons learnt and best practices moving forward. J Travel Med 2020;27:taaa144.  Back to cited text no. 1
Blackwell CW. Reducing sexually associated transmission of COVID-19 in men who have sex with men. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract 2020;33:1050-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
de Miguel Buckley R, Trigo E, de la Calle-Prieto F, Arsuaga M, Díaz-Menéndez M. Social distancing to combat COVID-19 led to a marked decrease in food-borne infections and sexually transmitted diseases in Spain. J Travel Med 2020;27:taaa134.  Back to cited text no. 3
Latini A, Magri F, Donà MG, Giuliani M, Cristaudo A, Zaccarelli M. Is COVID-19 affecting the epidemiology of STIs? The experience of syphilis in Rome. Sex Transm Infect 2021;97:78.  Back to cited text no. 4
Bonato F, Ferreli C, Satta R, Rongioletti F, Atzori L. Syphilis and the COVID-19 pandemic: Did the lockdown stop risky sexual behavior? Clin Dermatol 2021;39:710-3.  Back to cited text no. 5


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