SA Syphilis Register for cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

9 December 2019

A multi-jurisdictional syphilis outbreak affecting predominantly rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across northern Australia has been ongoing since January 2011. The Far North and Eyre and Western regions of South Australia (SA) were declared part of the outbreak in March 2017, and extended to Adelaide in November 2018. Nationally, there have been eight congenital syphilis cases linked to the outbreak, including one in South Australia in 2017.

The Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) has established the SA Syphilis Register as part of a comprehensive state-wide response (PDF 335KB) to the outbreak.

The Register will:

  • Gather and consolidate available information regarding syphilis testing and treatment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander South Australians.
  • Assist clinicians and health services with diagnosing, staging and managing cases where required.
  • Assist with partner notification and contact tracing where required.

At the outset, the Register may have limited information, but will improve as further cases are recorded on the Register. The Register will work in collaboration with health services and Registers in other jurisdictions.  

Clinicians and health services are advised to:

  • Notify cases of syphilis to the CDCB on 1300 232 272.
  • Contact the Register for assistance with diagnosing and managing syphilis cases (including partner notification) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Provide information to the Register on testing, treatment and contact tracing as requested.

Clinicians and health services are reminded that:

  • Treatment of syphilis is primarily with intramuscular (IM) benzathine penicillin 2.4 million units (1.8g), with regimen depending on clinical staging (view the SA Health guideline).
  • Benzathine penicillin is now available on the PBS for use via the Prescriber Bag.
  • Increased screening for syphilis in pregnancy is recommended for women at high risk (view the SA Perinatal Practice Guideline (PDF 202KB)).
    • Testing recommended at initial visit, 28 weeks, 36 weeks, at birth and at 6 week post-natal check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (or partners of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men) in an outbreak area.

Contact the SA Syphilis Register via the CDCB:

Further information, including links to above mentioned pages and fact sheets for health professionals and clients and families, are available at

For all enquires please contact the CDCB on 1300 232 272 (24 hours/7 days)

Dr Louise Flood – Director, Communicable Disease Control Branch

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