The rise of dating apps and falling rates of HIV in the developed world have led to the reemergence of an STD that was, until recently, confined to literary novels from the 19th century.
The spread of syphilis in Europe is intensifying, said Andrew Amato-Gauci, the head of the HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and viral hepatitis program at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). He told RT that various factors play into the outbreak, such as "people having sex without condoms, multiple sexual partners and a reduced fear of acquiring HIV from condomless sex."
A new report by the ECDC shows that the number of confirmed cases of syphilis across the EU soared by 70% between 2010 and 2017.
The biggest innovation in the dating world during that period is the rise of "hookup" apps like Tinder, Grindr and Bumble - aka bringing the "sharing economy" to the dating world.
Rates of HIV/AIDS deaths have been declining across the world after peaking in the early 2000s.
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Oddly enough, the leader in Europe in Iceland, a country where the 300,000 inhabitants are all, at the very least, distant cousins. The syphilis rate in Iceland has climbed by 876%. In Ireland, syphilis rates have climbed 224%, while Germany and Britain have seen rates double.
According to the ECDC, homosexual sex - specifically "men having sex with men" - is responsible for two-thirds of the cases reported between 2007 and 2017. Heterosexual men constitute 23% of the cases, and women 15%.
Amato-Gauci said growing rates of unprotected sex is only part of the problem. Lack of testing and sex education are also issues. Gauci has a few ideas for policies that could lower rates.
"These include: more testing for syphilis in some groups, such as men who have sex with men, lack of or insufficient sex education, poor access to condoms for teenagers and young adults, sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including the use of psychoactive 'party drugs.'"
Amato-Gauci said dating apps "may facilitate more sexual encounters, and with that transmission of STI [sexually-transmitted infections] like syphilis."
Lorenzo Giacani, associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Global Health at the University of Washington, said a "robust response" will be needed to lower syphilis rates.
"The ECDC data clearly shows that syphilis is not a disease of the past but very present among us," he said.
There is no vaccine for syphilis, and while penicillin can cure syphilis in its early stages, once it becomes late stage, there's no cure.