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An outbreak no longer: factors contributing to the return of syphilis in Greater Manchester
  1. M Ashton1,
  2. W Sopwith1,
  3. P Clark2,
  4. D McKelvey3,
  5. L Lighton4,
  6. D Mandal5
  1. 1Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (North West), 57a Upper Northgate Street, Chester CH1 4EF, UK
  2. 2Public Health Sector, Liverpool John Moores University, 70 Great Crosshall Street, Liverpool L3 2AB, UK
  3. 3Trafford South PCT, Oaklands House, Washway Road, Sale, Manchester M33 6FS, UK
  4. 4Greater Manchester Health Protection Unit, Floor 7b, Peel House, Albert Street, Eccles, Manchester M30 0NJ, UK
  5. 5Manchester Royal Infirmary, GUM Department, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Matthew Ashton, Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (North West), 57a Upper Northgate Street, Chester CH1 4EF, UK;


Background: In the past few years, increased diagnoses of syphilis have been reported in cities around Britain and Europe. Enhanced surveillance of cases began in 1999 to identify the epidemiology of this increase in Greater Manchester.

Methods: Information was collected on all cases of syphilis newly diagnosed in genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics in Greater Manchester between January 1999 and November 2002. The data collected included demographic information and information about other sexually transmitted infections, sexual behaviour, perception of risk of infection, and awareness of syphilis transmission.

Results: The majority of cases identified were white homosexual men resident in Greater Manchester. Of the 414 cases diagnosed, 74% had either a primary or secondary stage of syphilis infection and 37% of cases were HIV positive. High numbers of individuals practised unprotected oral sex despite good awareness of the risk of infection with syphilis. There is evidence that the way people are meeting sexual contacts is changing, with increasing numbers meeting most of their partners through the internet.

Conclusions: These findings have implications for targeting interventions. The provision of rapid diagnostic and treatment services is likely to be key for the control of syphilis and potentially of subsequent increases in HIV in the region.

  • syphilis
  • epidemiology
  • Greater Manchester
  • GUM services

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