Can enhanced screening of men with a history of prior syphilis infection stem the epidemic in men who have sex with men? A mathematical modelling study

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The aim of this study is to determine the transmission impact of using prior syphilis infection to guide a focused syphilis screening intervention among men who have sex with men (MSM).


We parameterised a deterministic model of syphilis transmission in MSM to reflect the 2011–2015 syphilis outbreak in Winnipeg, Canada. Enhanced screening of 75% of men with prior syphilis every 3 months (A) was compared with distributing equivalent number tests to all MSM (B) or those with the highest partner number (C). We compared early syphilis incidence, diagnoses and prevalence after 10 years, relative to a base case of 30% of MSM screened annually.


Strategy A was expected to avert 52% of incident infections, 44% of diagnosed cases and reduce early syphilis prevalence by 89%. Strategy B had the least impact. Strategy C was most effective, averting 59% of incident cases. When screening frequency was semiannual or annual, strategy A was the most effective.


Enhanced screening of MSM with prior syphilis may efficiently reduce transmission, especially when identification of high-risk men via self-reported partner numbers or high-frequency screening is difficult to achieve.

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