Alarming Increase in Syphilis Cases Among Young Pregnant Women in Japan

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Alarming Increase in Syphilis Cases Among Young Pregnant Women in Japan

The bacterium Treponema pallidum, known for causing syphilis, is being transmitted through sexual activity, primarily affecting young pregnant women in Japan. This demographic shift in syphilis cases has alarmed experts due to a notable increase among young pregnant women and newborns in recent years. According to the Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' survey, in 2022, nearly threefold more pregnant teenagers were found to be infected with syphilis compared to about six years prior.

The survey, which received responses from 1,346 medical institutions nationwide, highlighted a concerning trend with 18 out of 3,504 pregnant teens being infected with syphilis in 2022. This represents a significant jump from the infection rate of 0.19 percent reported in the previous survey conducted six months from October 2015. Syphilis, a bacterial infection with potential severe consequences like eye and nerve damage if left untreated, is primarily spreading through sexual intercourse and can even be transmitted through kissing and congenitally from infected mothers to their fetuses.

Experts attribute the rise in syphilis cases to factors like low public awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and increased intimacy between strangers facilitated by social media platforms. The lack of education and knowledge among both men and women on sexually transmitted infections is seen as a significant contributor to the increasing syphilis infection rates among teenagers. Shunji Suzuki, a professor at Nippon Medical School and director at the Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, emphasized the importance of sex education and encouraged individuals to seek medical help from relevant departments if they suspect a syphilis infection due to its diverse and sometimes difficult-to-detect symptoms.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases reported a staggering increase in syphilis cases in 2023, totaling about 15,000 patients, marking a twelvefold rise from a decade earlier. Moreover, the rise in congenital syphilis cases, leading to potential complications like premature birth or stillbirth, has reached a record high, indicating the urgent need for heightened awareness and preventive measures to combat the spread of this sexually transmitted infection.