Screening for Syphilis in Pregnant Women | Guidelines | JAMA | JAMA Network
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JAMA Patient Page
September 4, 2018

Screening for Syphilis in Pregnant Women

JAMA. 2018;320(9):948. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.12119

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently published recommendations on screening for syphilis infection in pregnant women.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Treponema pallidum. There are different stages of syphilis, and each stage has different symptoms. Primary syphilis occurs 2 or 3 weeks after infection, with symptoms of small, painless lesions called chancres in areas of sexual contact. Because chancres are painless and go away on their own, many people do not seek treatment. This can lead to secondary syphilis a few weeks to months later. Symptoms of secondary syphilis include flu-like symptoms, fever, a widespread rash, and swollen lymph nodes. If still untreated, these symptoms resolve and a period of latent syphilis follows, during which people may have no symptoms and which can last for several years. Finally, symptoms of tertiary syphilis (late-stage syphilis) can arise, which include serious damage to many organs, such as the heart, brain, spinal cord, and bones.