Head and Neck Pathology

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 195–206 | Cite as

Syphilis: The Renaissance of an Old Disease with Oral Implications

  • Giuseppe FicarraEmail author
  • Roman Carlos
Invited Review


Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum an anaerobic filamentous spirochete. In recent years, striking outbreaks have occurred in USA, Canada, Russia, China and some areas of Central and Eastern Europe. Main epidemiology changes reflect sex industry, sexual promiscuity, decreasing use of barrier protection (i.e. condoms) due to false sense of security that nowadays sexually transmitted diseases are curable and lack of pertinent knowledge. Considering that the initial presentation of syphilis may be the oral cavity, it is of great relevance to include this disease in the differential diagnosis of unusual oral ulcerations and white patches. Primary syphilis is a highly infectious disease in which inappropriate treatment may be apparently curative while the patient remains highly infectious. It is then of pivotal importance that clinicians maintain a high clinical index of suspicion. At the present time, clinical-pathologic correlation together with serologic studies remain essential in establishing the diagnosis of syphilis.


Syphilis Oral cavity Treponema pallidum 



The authors thank Prof. Oslei Paes de Almeida, FOP-UNICAMP, Brazil, for performing the immunohistochemistry reactions in Fig. 11.


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Copyright information

© Humana 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Reference Center for the Study of Oral DiseasesAzienda Ospedaliero-UniversitariaFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Department of Odonto-StomatologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  3. 3.Pathology DivisionCentro Clínico de Cabeza y CuelloGuatemala CityGuatemala

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