Rates of Newborn Syphilis 10 Times Higher Than a Decade Ago

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sounding the alarm on newborn syphilis. Cases of infants born with syphilis have soared in recent years. New CDC data reveal that more than 3,700 babies were born with syphilis in 2022—more than 10 times the number born in 2012.
U.S. Newborn syphilis cases

Syphilis during pregnancy is a serious issue. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. Babies born with syphilis can face lifelong medical issues. This is why screening for syphilis is recommended for all pregnant patients, so infections can be found and treated.

As CDC notes, there were many missed opportunities to prevent newborn syphilis. For example, 2 in 5 (40%) people who had a baby with syphilis did not get prenatal care. Some pregnant patients were not screened for syphilis or were not treated after testing positive. Overall, 9 in 10 cases  of newborn syphilis in 2022 might have been prevented with timely testing and treatment.

Syphilis infographic

There are also clear disparities in newborn syphilis cases. In 2021, babies born to Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native mothers were up to  8 times more likely to have newborn syphilis than babies born to white mothers. These disparities stem from unfair and unjust systems, policies, and practices.

Preventing Newborn Syphilis

Newborn syphilis is a preventable problem. As the CDC states in its report, “Increasing rates of syphilis among babies reflect a failure of the U.S. health system.”

While there are large, systemic problems that play a role, like institutional racism and lack of access of care, there are clear steps that can be taken. CDC has offered guidance to health care providers and health departments on timely testing and treatment.

Read more about syphilis prevention, testing, and treatment here.

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