Exposure of sexual partners to syphilis

Syphilis is contracted through contact, including sexual contact, with an open sore (chancre) or skin rash caused by syphilis. Sores are less common after the first year of infection.

Sex partners of a person who has syphilis in any stage should be evaluated using tests for syphilis.1Antibiotic treatment is recommended for all exposed partners.

If a person was exposed (has had sexual contact with a person who has syphilis) within the past 90 days, blood tests may come back negative even though he or she may be infected. Treatment is usually recommended even if the blood test is negative.

Long-term sex partners of persons with late syphilis should be tested for syphilis and treated if blood tests are positive.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006). Syphilis section of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2006. MMWR, 55(No. RR-11): 22–30. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/default.htm.

Last Updated: September 30, 2009

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