Sweden sees dramatic rise in syphilis cases

Syphilis is on the increase in Sweden, with the number of new cases more than tripling in some parts of the country.

Sweden sees dramatic rise in syphilis cases
New figures show a significant increase in Swedish syphilis cases. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Medical magazine Dagens Medicin says that the Västra Götaland region on Sweden’s west coast is the area where the disease has spread the sharpest, with the number of cases increasing from only ten in 2010, to 51 in 2015. One of the most affected groups are men who have sex with other men.

Syphilis, a bacterial infection, is recognizable in small, painless sores that typically appear on the genitals or the mouth. If left untreated it can lead to cardiovascular and nervous system issues. 

“It is treatable, but it can also be serious,” Leif Dotevall, a deputy disease control physician in the Västra Götaland region told news agency TT.

“It can lead to meningitis, other neurological problems and vessel damage,” he warned.

Though the swell was less dramatic than in Västra Götaland, capital city Stockholm also saw an increase in infections, with 158 cases reported there last year compared to 89 half a decade ago. The total across Sweden grew from 199 infections in 2010, to 244 in 2014. No national data for 2015 was available.

Syphilis is not the only sexually transmitted disease that is on the up in the Nordic country. Cases of gonorrhoea more than doubled between 1995 and 2015, according to figures from the Swedish Public Health Agency. In December, doctors warned that a so-called ‘super-gonorrhoea’ strain that is untreatable by conventional antibiotics could be the cause of the rise. 

The growth in syphilis cases coincides with a new report from the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education which shows fewer Swedes are using condoms in 2016.