Syphilis cases in newborn babies reach 20-year high, CDC says

Congenital syphilis cases -- when a mother passes syphilis onto her baby during pregnancy or delivery -- hav...

Posted: Sep 26, 2018 8:39 AM
Updated: Sep 26, 2018 8:39 AM

Congenital syphilis cases -- when a mother passes syphilis onto her baby during pregnancy or delivery -- have more than doubled in the United States since 2013, according to an report released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eight out of 10 pregnant women who have untreated syphilis will pass it onto their babies through the placenta and this can lead to stillbirth or death of a newborn in up to 40% of affected pregnancies, according to the CDC.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children

Demographic groups

Families and children

Family members and relatives

Government organizations - US

Health and medical

Infants and toddlers

Population and demographics

Public health

Society

US Department of Health and Human Services

US federal departments and agencies

Congenital diseases

Diseases and disorders

Health and health care (by demographic group)

Infectious diseases

Maternal and child health

Medical fields and specialties

Obstetrics and gynecology

Pregnancy and childbirth

Sexual and reproductive health

Sexually transmitted diseases

Women's health

Females (demographic group)

Continents and regions

North America

The Americas

United States

The number of recorded cases swelled from 362 in 2013 to 918 in 2017, the report indicates. Five states -- Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas -- account for 70% of the cases, according to the CDC. Additional cases were reported in 32 states, primarily Western and Southern states. The overall increase in congenital syphilis outpaces the national increase in sexually transmitted disease overall, the report indicated.

Diagnoses of primary and secondary syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease, increased 76% in the US from 2013 to 2017, the CDC reports. Though rates of syphilis accelerated most among men, who accounted for more than 88% of infections in 2017, rates among women are also rising. The new report found 2.3 cases per 100,000 women in 2017, which rose from 1.9 cases diagnosed for every 100,000 women in 2016.

One in three women who gave birth to a baby with syphilis in 2016 did get tested during pregnancy, but either acquired syphilis after that test or did not get treated in time to cure the infection in the unborn baby, according to the CDC.

'Not surprising'

Dr. Pablo J. Sanchez, a principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said, "I am not surprised that congenital syphilis has increased because we have been seeing increasing cases of syphilis among women of child-bearing ages. So it's not surprising but it is of major concern."

Sanchez, who was not involved in the CDC report, explained that untreated syphilis in a pregnant woman not only leads to possible fetal death or "death in the first month of life from overwhelming infection" but it can also cause enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, rash, abnormal bone inflammation, and infections of the brain and of the eye in an infant.

"The majority of babies who are born to mothers with untreated syphilis look well at birth and that's why it's so important to screen women during pregnancy to detect the infection," said Sanchez, who is also a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

While some infected babies who go undetected at birth will develop signs of the disease in the first several months of life, some newborns will not develop any symptoms. Detection happens much later, usually around age 8 to 10 but up to 16 years old, when congenital syphilis affects other body organs causing hearing loss and eye problems, Sanchez explained.

"The good thing is if we are able to identify them -- even those who are asymptomatic-- and treat them in the newborn period, it seems like these babies do well," said Sanchez. He noted, though, that "we don't have a lot of information on the neurodevelopmental outcomes. That's the knowledge gap today."

The CDC recommends that every pregnant woman get screened early in her pregnancy so that she can get treated and prevent fetal infection and possible stillbirth. In areas or states where syphilis rates or congenital syphilis rates are high, women should get screened repeatedly -- at 28 to 32 weeks of pregnancy and at delivery, in addition to early-term screening.

"Repeated screening is important and imperative to be able to detect all cases of newborns who have been infected in utero," said Sanchez.

The treatment for a mother with syphilis is penicillin, which is curative and safe for both mother and fetus. In cases where the mother has not been treated or not adequately treated, then the baby can be treated either with a single shot of penicillin or a 10-day course of the common antibiotic. "That's curative and very safe," said Sanchez. "It's the standard of care."

Sanchez said congenital syphilis is a "major global public health problem," one that is on the rise not only in the US, but worldwide.

"Every case of congenital syphilis represents a failure of our public health and we need to ensure early and adequate prenatal care for all women and appropriate testing of women so that we can detect all babies and treat them appropriately," said Sanchez. "It sounds simple but unfortunately, it's not often done."

Terre Haute
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 28°
Robinson
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 27°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 26°
Paris
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 26°
Mattoon/Charleston
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 25°
Terre Haute
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 28°
Terre Haute
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 28°
Clear & Cold
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Two women facing charges in Capitol violence appear virtually for court

Image

Offering women the much needed care they deserve

Image

House passes stimulus bill

Image

Overnight: Clear and cold. Low: 22°

Image

Recent Trends in the Local Real Estate Market

Image

Dangers at Wallace Ave.

Image

Knox County plans two seperate COVID-19 vaccine outreach clinics

Image

Rick's Rallies

Image

ISU Hoops

Image

Zoe Stewart

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1186613

Reported Deaths: 22735
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4743979359
DuPage767651196
Will65037893
Lake59517921
Kane50746717
Winnebago28340439
Madison27987455
St. Clair25440466
McHenry24315265
Champaign18105126
Peoria16897262
Sangamon16128217
McLean14601157
Tazewell13521240
Rock Island13065286
Kankakee12496189
Kendall1105986
LaSalle10798219
Macon9457185
Vermilion8564116
DeKalb8265112
Adams8003114
Williamson6796121
Whiteside5926147
Boone592371
Clinton557189
Coles519691
Grundy512063
Ogle502073
Knox5017132
Jackson461060
Effingham449269
Macoupin435079
Henry432956
Marion4262111
Livingston419877
Franklin414566
Stephenson409675
Monroe406583
Jefferson3976115
Randolph396378
Woodford367560
Morgan358776
Montgomery349568
Lee335243
Logan331053
Bureau330773
Christian330568
Fayette306452
Perry305457
Fulton285244
Iroquois277160
Jersey249646
Douglas244432
McDonough232740
Saline229747
Lawrence229624
Union218536
Shelby213934
Crawford200723
Bond190924
Cass188822
Pike169150
Clark168630
Wayne167448
Hancock167129
Warren166444
Richland163538
White160825
Jo Daviess160522
Ford158445
Washington158323
Carroll157634
Edgar154237
Moultrie149124
Clay142841
Greene137932
Johnson134712
Piatt132714
Wabash130012
Mason128641
Mercer128033
De Witt127922
Massac127133
Cumberland119218
Jasper110917
Menard10368
Marshall83815
Hamilton78815
Schuyler6775
Pulaski6706
Brown6636
Stark54122
Edwards52310
Henderson49814
Calhoun4782
Scott4491
Alexander4488
Gallatin4374
Putnam4153
Hardin34412
Pope2823
Out of IL00
Unassigned02219

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 661673

Reported Deaths: 12573
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion906391639
Lake48389876
Allen35806635
Hamilton32056396
St. Joseph29947512
Elkhart25376414
Vanderburgh21245378
Tippecanoe20000201
Johnson16336359
Porter15957270
Hendricks15813300
Clark11946181
Madison11741316
Vigo11595229
Monroe10328161
Delaware9836179
LaPorte9761196
Howard9055197
Kosciusko8561109
Bartholomew7448147
Warrick7412150
Hancock7404131
Floyd7200169
Wayne6631191
Grant6424157
Morgan6084125
Boone608288
Dubois5903111
Dearborn547067
Cass544399
Marshall5423104
Henry542093
Noble509078
Jackson464566
Shelby460290
Lawrence4180112
Gibson401281
Harrison399663
Clinton395453
Montgomery386783
DeKalb385178
Knox357285
Miami357263
Whitley349136
Huntington343976
Steuben338155
Wabash331176
Putnam329759
Ripley327061
Adams323149
Jasper315943
White297352
Jefferson294873
Daviess285396
Fayette271556
Decatur270888
Greene261280
Posey260831
Wells258274
Scott250350
Clay241044
LaGrange240870
Randolph225576
Spencer217130
Jennings215044
Washington211027
Sullivan203239
Fountain201442
Starke188051
Owen182153
Fulton178237
Jay177728
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush164722
Vermillion160442
Franklin159435
Tipton146341
Parke139216
Pike127632
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown94939
Benton91913
Crawford90613
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7537
Union67110
Ohio53311
Unassigned0431