Background and Objectives: Syphilis can be transmitted by blood. We describe syphilis infections detected in blood donors and investigate the epidemiology of syphilis in English, Welsh and Northern Irish blood donors. Materials and Methods: This article analyses routine surveillance data regarding syphilis infections in blood donors from England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 1998 and 2004. Infections are classified as recently acquired or past syphilis and donor characteristics and trends examined. Results: A total of 518 syphilis-infected donors were identified; 40 had recently acquired infection and 407 had past syphilis (71 were unclassified). Thirteen times more recently acquired syphilis infections were identified among people who donated between 2002 and 2004 compared to 1998 to 2001. Young, white and regular donors were most likely to have recently acquired syphilis infections. Heterosexual sex was the main risk exposure identified overall; in contrast, the greatest proportion of recently acquired infections were in men who have sex with men. Conclusion: The increase in recently acquired syphilis, although low, indicates that risky sexual behaviours are increasing in the blood donor population, with implications for the microbiological safety of blood. Continued vigilance is required by blood services as the risk of syphilis increases in the general population.
- Blood donors