When you go to the doctor because you just aren’t feeling that comfortable down there, or you just want a check-up and hear the words ‘you’ve got syphilis’, it’s likely you reach panic mode very quickly.

After hitting panic, your next thought is likely, ‘how do I fix it?’

Luckily, azithromycin (penicillin) was invented about a century ago, and it’s been somewhat effective in treating syphilis.

However, researchers are saying there are more than 10 million new cases of syphilis each year due to a new strain of the virus, called SS14-Ω.

As a result, scientists from the University of Zurich in Switzerland have analysed bacteria from this disease strain to help determine why it has become resistant to penicillin. Publishing their results in the journal, Nature: Microbiology, the researchers have identified that this strain of syphilis dates back to the 1700’s, and came back with a vengeance in the 1950’s, and now, it is back again in 2016.

Should we be worried?

Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University, Canberra says this new research isn’t something to be alarmed about.

“The rates of syphilis have been increasing in Australia for the last five years or so,” said A/Prof Senanayake.

“Primary syphilis causes a painless ulcer on the genitals, which may be missed; so people need to be vigilant and sexually active people should get screened periodically for it,” A/Prof Senanayake.

A/Prof Senanayake says the comeback of this disease isn’t one to be alarmed about as long as the penicillin- resistant strain doesn’t develop.

Who do we blame for this disease?

Unfortunately, you can’t play the blame game for this one as no one is sure of when SS14-Ω was introduced to Europe.

The research has identified that the disease swept through Europe in the 1700’s and then had mutated when it hit again in the 1950’s.

“No one is quite sure how long it has been in Europe. Some say that Columbus brought it back to Europe from the Americas while others say that it had been circulating in Europe for a long time before that without being recognised,” said A/Prof Senanayake.

So, if you’re worried, your best move would be to head to your local GP and get checked out.