The world’s fastest-growing epidemic of syphilis is occurring in China, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It states that one child was born with the disease every hour in the country in 2008 and it is not the most commonly reported sexually-transmitted infection in the city of Shanghai.
The authors of the article suggested that transmission is being fuelled by growth in the number of female prostitutes working in the country and an increase in the number of men rich enough to pay for sex.
"After China’s economy became increasingly market-based in the 1980s, the growing numbers of Chinese businessmen with money and young women without money translated into expanded demand and supply for the country’s commercial sex industry," they explained.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is usually passed on through sexual contact and can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her unborn child.
If left untreated, the disease can have serious side effects, such as stroke, paralysis, blindness and even death.