Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the spirochetal bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The route of transmission of syphilis is almost always through sexual contact, although there are examples of congenital syphilis via transmission from mother to child in utero.
The signs and symptoms of syphilis are numerous; before the advent of serological testing, precise diagnosis was very difficult. In fact, the disease was dubbed the "Great Imitator" because it was often confused with other diseases, particularly in its tertiary stage.
Syphilis can generally be treated with antibiotics, including penicillin. One of the oldest and still the most effective method is an intramuscular injection of benzathine penicillin. If left untreated, syphilis can damage the heart, aorta, brain, eyes, and bones. In some cases these effects can be fatal. In 1998, the complete genetic sequence of T. pallidum was published, which may aid understanding of the pathogenesis of syphilis.