Syphilis is an uncommon disease in New Zealand but one that can be very serious if left untreated. Syphilis is almost always acquired by sexual contact with an infected person.


Many people do not have any symptoms of infection, but those who do may experience a painless genital ulcer, swellings in the groin, or a body rash. Often these symptoms will resolve and the infection may not cause any further problems. However, if untreated, the infection may remain active for many years and can cause damage to the brain, heart, internal organs, and skin.  


Diagnosis is by a blood test or tests taken from the genital ulcer or rash.

Treatment is with antibiotics, usually given by injection. Sexual partners should be tested and treated also.

A pregnant woman who has syphilis can cause damage to the baby and cause the baby to be born with syphilis. Effective treatment of the mother during the pregnancy will prevent the baby being born with syphilis.

This page was last updated at 2:58PM on June 2, 2022.