CDC: Heterosexual Syphilis Transmission Up for Drug Users

FRIDAY, Feb. 15, 2019 — A substantial proportion of heterosexual syphilis transmission seems to be occurring among those who use drugs, especially methamphetamine, according to research published in the Feb. 15 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Sarah E. Kidd, M.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed national primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis surveillance data for 2013 to 2017 and examined the percentage of cases among women, men who have sex with women only (MSW), and men who have sex with men (MSM) who reported drug-related risk behaviors in the previous 12 months.

The researchers found that reported use of methamphetamine, injection drugs, and heroin more than doubled during 2013 to 2017 among women and MSW with P&S syphilis. In 2017, 16.6, 10.5, and 5.8 percent of women with P&S syphilis used methamphetamine, injection drugs, and heroin during the preceding 12 months, respectively. The trends were similar among MSW, but not MSM.

“Heterosexual syphilis and drug use, particularly methamphetamine use, are connected and interrelated epidemics in the United States,” the authors write. “Collaboration between sexually transmitted disease control programs and partners that provide services for persons with substance use disorders will be essential to address recent increases in heterosexual syphilis and link patients to clinical and prevention services.”

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Posted: February 2019

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