Syphilis is one of the sexually transmitted infections (STI) caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria. It can lead to complications in the long term, if not diagnosed effectively. Syphilis is a global health concern due to increasing incidence. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 36 million cases of syphilis were reported in 2013 globally, with over 11 million new cases occurring annually. Additionally, around 90% of the syphilis cases are prevalent in developing countries, with similar trends observed in developed nations as well. The increasing syphilis cases are attributed to the growing rate of anonymous sex, sex with multiple partners, sex under the influence of several drugs, and increasing number of unprotected sex. Moreover, it is gaining prominence among pregnant women, which can further lead to congenital abnormalities such as stillbirth, abortions, and other abnormalities in pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no home remedies or over-the-counter drugs that will cure syphilis, but syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single intramuscular injection of long acting Benzathine penicillin G (2.4 million units administered intramuscularly) will cure a person who has primary, secondary, or early latent syphilis. Three doses of long acting Benzathine penicillin G (2.4 million units administered intramuscularly) at weekly intervals is recommended for individuals with late latent syphilis or latent syphilis of unknown duration. Treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done. In 2013, over 56,400 cases of syphilis were reported in the U.S. The rate of women infected with syphilis has been declining in the U.S., but the rate among men, particularly homosexual men, has been rising.
There are four stages of syphilis: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Syphilis is infectious in the first two stages. When it is in the unknown, or in latent stage, syphilis remains active, but often it shows no symptoms and is even not contagious to others. Tertiary syphilis is the most damaging to human health. Primary as well as secondary syphilis are often treated with a penicillin injection. Antibiotic penicillin is one of the most extensively used antibiotics and is effective in the treatment of syphilis. Penicillin allergic people are treated with a different antibiotic, such as ceftriaxone azithromycin, or doxycycline.
Increasing prevalence of syphilis globally is expected to drive the growth of the syphilis treatment market. However, certain challenges faced by the market include insufficient infrastructure provisions in labs, equipment, and supplies, lack of trained laboratory personnel in the developing regions such as countries in West Africa and stigma associated with voluntary testing. These factors are likely to restrain market growth.
Geographically, Europe and North America are the two major regional markets for syphilis treatment, as awareness about the disease is high in Europe. Presently, Latin America and Middle East & Africa are lucrative markets for investment. According to the WHO, syphilis prevalence was highest in countries in Africa. As stated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2015, over 1 million sexually transmitted infections are acquired every day globally. Each year, there are 357 million new infections, with 1 in 4 sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia (131 million), gonorrhoea (78 million), syphilis (5.6 million), and trichomoniasis (143 million).
Pfizer, Inc. is the only major player in the syphilis treatment market. Bicillin L-A is the only currently approved penicillin G benzathine product indicated for the treatment of syphilis manufactured by Pfizer, Inc.
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