US officials warn of dramatic rise in infant syphilis
However, in nine out of 10 cases the disease could have been prevented with timely testing and treatment during pregnancy, CDC said
Cases of syphilis among newborns have grown tenfold in the United States over the past 10 years, health officials warned Tuesday, part of a broader rise in sexually transmitted diseases in America.
Over 3,700 infants were born with congenital syphilis in 2022, more than 10 times the number in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
However, in nine out of 10 cases the disease could have been prevented with timely testing and treatment during pregnancy, CDC said.
Infants can develop syphilis in utero, if their mother is infected and not treated. In a pregnant woman, syphilis can lead to miscarriages, death of the newborn, or long-term complications for the baby, such as loss of vision or hearing and bone malformations.
Racial minorities bear the brunt of the epidemic with lower access to testing and treatment.
Black, Native American or Hispanic babies were up to eight times more likely to be born with syphilis than babies born to white mothers in 2021, the agency said, calling for strategies tailored to the most vulnerable groups.
Barriers experienced by them "include lack of ongoing health coverage, living in health care or maternal care deserts, transportation limitations, challenges posed by substance use disorder, housing instability, poverty and racism," said Laura Bachmann, CDC's top official on the prevention of socially transmitted diseases.
The CDC called on health care providers to boost screening of pregnant women, including those treated in emergency rooms or in programs related to drug use.