The number of newborns with syphilis in the United States surged more than 10-fold in the last decade, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday.
The agency said 3,761 cases were recorded in 2022, the highest in over 30 years, up from 334 cases in 2012. The 2022 cases included 231 stillbirths and 51 infant deaths.
Nine out of 10 cases might have been prevented with timely testing and treatment during pregnancy, said Laura Bachmann, chief medical officer in CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems without treatment, and during pregnancy, can lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, infant death, and maternal and infant morbidity.
By treating patients quickly, healthcare professionals could reduce some of the greatest hurdles to the care some mothers need, said Bachmann.
Congenital syphilis occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection to her baby during pregnancy.
The CDC recommends screening for syphilis at the first prenatal care visit to reduce perinatal transmission.
Benzathine penicillin G is the only recommended treatment for syphilis during pregnancy that must be administered as a single-dose injection or three doses spaced seven to nine days apart, depending on the stage of infection, according to the CDC.