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Syphilis cases in England have reached the highest level seen in the country since 1949. Cases of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) have risen by 97 per cent since 2012, according to the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE).

The latest findings reveal that in 2016, a total of 5,920 syphilis diagnoses were made. This is a 12 per cent increase compared to 2015, which saw 5,281 diagnoses. In comparison to 2012, which saw just 3,001 syphilis cases in England, the last few years have seen a huge surge in the number of people being diagnosed with the STI.

According to PHE, the cases seen across the country were largely in association with bisexual and gay men, as well as other men who have sex with men. However, everyone who engages in unprotected sex is at risk of contracting an STI, which is why condoms should be used and individuals should seek regular testing.

Syphilis has not been this abundant since 1949. The infection is caused by bacteria and can be passed through sexual contact with someone who is infected. While it can be treated with antibiotics, not being treated can lead to serious long-term health conditions.

Although syphilis is on the rise, the number of STI cases in England in total has actually declined. There were around 420,000 diagnoses of STIs in the country during 2016, which is four per cent lower than in 2015.

PHE said that although STI cases are falling, those most at risk continue to be heterosexuals aged between 15 and 24, men who have sex with men and black ethnic minorities.

Dr Michael Brady, medical director for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Today’s figures show unacceptably high rates of STIs. We’re facing huge challenges, such as the continued rise of syphilis and ongoing concerns around drug-resistant gonorrhoea, and we urgently need to address the nation’s poor sexual health and rates of STIs in those most at risk."

He continued to say that cuts to public health services have had a "visible impact" on STI rates and that this needs to be addressed in order to see a dramatic reduction in the number of cases across England.