Syphilis is a sexually acquired infection caused by a bacteria-like spirochete Treponema pallidum.
Syphilis can be transmitted between partners during sexual intercourse and from an infected pregnant woman across the placenta to a developing baby.
Infection during pregnancy usually results in miscarriage, stillbirth or a congenitally infected baby. Maternal infection is detectable and treatable which prevents transmission to the baby.
Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics.
For symptoms and general information on syphilis, visit NHS Choices.
Data collection and epidemiology
PHE in collaboration with the UCL Institute of Child Health and the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit conducted a surveillance of congenital syphilis in children under 2 years of age between 1 February 2010 and 31 January 2015.
The survey aimed to estimate the incidence of congenital syphilis, identify factors associated with cases of congenital infection and inform efforts to improve healthcare systems to ensure that women and their babies are managed appropriately. The investigation complemented the study of antenatal screening pathways undertaken by the Syphilis Task Group, a sub-committee of the National Screening Committee.
The PHE study has now finished. Further details are available on the BPSU website.