Forgotton but not gone: the continuing scourge of congenital syphilis


Much attention is being given to the prevention of HIV infection in babies through transmission from the mother. By contrast, regrettably little concern is raised about the increasing numbers of babies born with congenital syphilis. In affluent countries congenital syphilis is very rare, but in many poor countries, including the newly independent countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the numbers are high and increasing. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, around 10% of pregnant women are affected by syphilis. The prevention of congenital syphilis is more cost-effective than the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The control of congenital syphilis could indirectly have a beneficial effect on the HIV epidemic by reducing susceptibility to infection. Although the procedure to prevent congenital syphilis through antenatal screening and treatment is well established, implementation of effective programmes in resource-poor settings has proved very difficult.


Walker, D.; Walker, G. Forgotton but not gone: the continuing scourge of congenital syphilis. Lancet Infectious Diseases (2002) 2 (7) 432-436.

Published 4 December 2006