Syphilis rates have been on the rise across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syphilis case reports have increased over 15% since 2013. What is unusual about this statistic is that syphilis was nearly eliminated in the U.S. only a few decades ago when penicillin was discovered. Syphilis is a bacterial STD that can cause long-term complications and possible death if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent and late syphilis. It is spread through contact with a syphilitic sore or through anal, oral, or vaginal sex. Before the discovery of antibiotics, many people died from syphilis. One person, who died right when the drug was being developed was legendary gangster, Al Capone.

Alphonse Gabriel Capone, more commonly known as Al “Scarface” Capone, was an gangster who led a crime syndicate dedicated to the illegal traffic of alcoholic beverages during the time of prohibition in the 1920s-30s. Born in Brooklyn, New York he began his career as a criminal before moving to Chicago and becoming the boss of his own criminal organization known as the Chicago Outfit. He grew to notoriety on the “Public Enemies List,” and was infamous as one of the most violent men of his day. He was arrested and convicted of tax evasion in 1932.

Capone was released from prison in November 1939 then underwent several months of treatment for syphilis in Baltimore. Afterward, he spent much of his time out of the public spotlight, resting at his Palm Island, Florida, mansion.. He became one of the first civilians to receive penicillin for syphilis, although it was too late to cure him. He died of a stroke in 1947.

In his lifetime, Capone was a legend. His iconic status has only grown since his death. He was a violent criminal and a titan of the Depression Era. For most of his life, Capone seemed untouchable but even the power of this man could not prevent a fall from grace by the hands of an STD.

If left untreated, syphilis can develop into more advanced stages that can eventually lead to death or other major health concerns. The best way to determine a syphilis infection, or simply know the current status of your sexual health, is to have STD testing performed.


1 CDC – STD Basics
2 Al Capone – History Channel Biography
3 CDC – Syphilis Rates