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Medical News & Perspectives
February 6, 2019

Why Are Mothers Still Passing Syphilis to Their Babies?

JAMA. 2019;321(8):729-731. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.20843

In 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a record 918 US neonates—64 of them stillborn—were infected in utero or at delivery by their mothers with syphilis.

Nearly eliminated more than a decade ago, syphilis has been making an alarming comeback in recent years in women, men, and newborns. While men account for more than 90% of cases, only women can pass Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis, on to their offspring, and the rise in congenital syphilis cases has paralleled the increase in syphilis cases in women of reproductive age.