Surveillance report Open Access
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In response to the increasing numbers of syphilis cases reported among men having sex with men (MSM) in Dublin, an Outbreak Control Team (OCT) was set up in late 2000. The outbreak peaked in 2001 and had largely ceased by late 2003. An enhanced syphilis surveillance system was introduced to capture data from January 2000. Between January 2000 and December 2003, 547 cases of infectious syphilis were notified in Ireland (415 were MSM). Four per cent of cases were diagnosed with HIV and 15.4% of cases were diagnosed with at least one other STI (excluding HIV) within the previous 3 months. The mean number of contacts reported by male cases in the 3 months prior to diagnosis was 4 (range 0-8) for bisexual contacts and 6 for homosexual contacts (range 1-90). Thirty one per cent of MSM reported having had recent unprotected oral sex and 15.9% of MSM reported having had recent unprotected anal sex. Sixteen per cent of cases reported having had sex abroad in the three months prior to diagnosis. The results suggest that risky sexual behaviour contributed to the onward transmission of infection in Dublin. The outbreak in Dublin could be seen as part of a European-wide outbreak of syphilis. The rates of co-infection with HIV and syphilis in Ireland are comparable with rates reported from other centres. There is a need to improve surveillance systems in order to allow real time evaluation of interventions and ongoing monitoring of infection trends.


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