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Role of Acquired Immunity to T. pallidum in the Control of Syphilis

James F. Jekel
Public Health Reports (1896-1970)
Vol. 83, No. 8 (Aug., 1968), pp. 627-632
DOI: 10.2307/4593373
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4593373
Page Count: 6
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Role of Acquired Immunity to T. pallidum in the Control of Syphilis
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Abstract

Hypothetically, an important contributing factor in the marked resurgence of infectious syphilis during the past decade is that a decline has occurred in acquired immunity among the populations at high risk for spreading the disease. Evidence from clinical, epidemiologic, and laboratory studies indicates that a true acquired immunity to Treponema pallidum develops in rabbits and man if the infection is not treated for several months. The primary effect of this immunity is to prevent the development of infectious skin lesions, thus interrupting the spread of syphilis--herd immunity. Data for the United States indicate that acquired immunity to syphilis among young men has fallen to approximately one-fifth of pre-World War II levels. This decline in herd immunity may have contributed to the recent resurgence of the disease. In countries where yaws eradication campaigns have been conducted, declining levels of antitreponemal immunity seem to be permitting a more rapid spread of syphilis. A vaccine against T. pallidum may be needed to eradicate syphilis worldwide. The primary effect of such a vaccine would be production of herd immunity, which would slow the spread of syphilis through a population and enable casefinding and treatment programs to eradicate the disease. To have a major effect, the vaccine need be used only in promiscuous populations.

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