Syphilis is a dangerous disease, and if left to develop without treatment, it can lead to serious complications. However, it still remains one of those bacterial infections that is most easily treated. With various advancements in medicine, doctors continue to discover different methods of treating Syphilis. For instance, Mercury was used as a treatment method in the 1800s, and it worked, but it caused mercury poisoning in the patients. Over time, this treatment method changed to the drug Salvarsan (Arsphenamine), the arsenic-based drug, but that was toxic to the users too as it had numerous toxic side-effects.
Treating Syphilis with Arsphenamine
The use of Mercury for treating Syphilis continued into the 1900s until the physician Julius Wagner-Jauregg found out that the causal bacteria cannot survive in conditions above 40 °C. This inspired him to adopt a new therapy where he infected patients with malaria so they can get hot flashes and have a reason to use quinine. This work earned him a Nobel Prize in 1927, and it became a standard for treating Syphilis until the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s.
Modern Treatment of Syphilis
These days, the first-choice treatment for Syphilis is the Penicillin G, but for effectiveness, it is complemented with other antibiotics because penicillin might fail to penetrate some tissues where bacteria are lying dormant. This treatment should be used with caution in case the patient is infected with HIV, allergic to penicillin or has chronic symptoms of syphilis. Therefore, before a doctor administers penicillin to a syphilis-infected patient, they will need to examine the spinal fluid and blood of the patient to see what their antibodies are made of. This examination will reveal the stage of the disease and how far it has spread towards the central nervous system. Then the doctor will be able to know which treatment regimen is best for the patient.
Strategies for Treating Syphilis
Usually, one strategy is used for Penicillin G treatment for Syphilis in the early stages. But the health condition and age of the patient determine the duration and pattern of the treatment regimen. For instance, adults can take Penicillin G intramuscularly as a single dose while children will need to use it intravenously. If the patient has penicillin allergies, the doctor may administer another type of antibiotics.
At the early stages of the disease, the infected patient only needs to take one dose, but when the disease progresses, the patient may need to take multiple doses on a weekly basis. If the patient has the condition called neurosyphilis, they may have to receive another antibiotic. Some patients may also respond with a fever-like reaction after 24 hours of commencing treatment which is similar to being allergic to penicillin. This reaction, known as Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, is caused by the syphilis bacteria that release substances that cause fever when they are killed by antibiotics.