US health officials UU They urge doctors to screen pregnant women for early syphilis and often to stop the sudden increase in the disease.
Despite previous declines in babies born with syphilis due to their mothers' exposure, the rates of this congenital form of sexually transmitted disease (STD) actually increased from 2012 to 2016.
When passing from a pregnant woman to her baby, syphilis can cause birth defects, brain damage and even death.
The suggestion to evaluate all pregnant women for STDs is not new, but the USPSTF is reaffirming its recommendation to avoid these dangerous increases.
US health officials UU They urge doctors to screen pregnant women for syphilis as soon as they discover they are pregnant in the midst of a 40 percent increase in babies infected with STDs.
The invention and introduction of penicillin, which continues to be the first-line treatment for syphilis, to US medical care more than 80 years ago drastically reduced the number of cases of syphilis in the US. UU
Perhaps most importantly, the unprecedented efficacy of the drug in the treatment of syphilis means that pregnant women can receive treatment, protecting their babies from inheriting the infection and perhaps saving their lives.
However, in 2016, there were still more than 88,000 new cases of syphilis in the US. UU., And around 630 of them were babies who had contracted the disease from their mothers.
Syphilis is unpleasant and, after remaining dormant for many years, can cause serious damage to the health of people of all ages.
But the disease is especially dangerous for developing babies.
Two out of every five babies born to women who have untreated syphilis will die as a result of the infection.
The bacteria that cause syphilis, the preponema pallidum, can pass through the mother's placenta into her baby's bloodstream during pregnancy or infect the baby through vaginal contact during delivery.
The infection severely impairs the delicate development process of the baby, and also interferes with the changes that the mother's body must go through to support a growing fetus.
Women with untreated syphilis may develop too large a placenta, may lose the baby during pregnancy, give birth early or have underdeveloped babies.
The infection can also lead to a large number of birth defects, including anemia, blindness, deafness, abnormal teeth and noses, and an enlarged liver or spleen.
At least, these babies are often born with rashes and develop fevers that are more dangerous to them than to adults who have syphilis.
However, if a mother's syphilis is treated early in pregnancy, all this can be avoided.
Since 2009, the USPSTF has recommended that women be screened early in their pregnancies.
That is not changing, but with a strong increase of almost 40 percent in cases of syphilis in babies, the agency is reiterating its advice with a new urgency.
She recommends that women be screened for infection, through a pelvic exam and a blood test, during their first visit to the doctor after they know they are pregnant.
Echoing the sentiments of other health associations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the USPSTF also suggests that women who fall into the "high-risk" category should be resubmitted. when they are pregnant 28 weeks.
This group includes women in communities where the infection is common, those who have HIV or have been in jail.
Previous studies have shown that women who are diagnosed and treated are less likely to have infected babies, but that those reductions are much more dramatic when the treatment is given early.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Kenneth Katz, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, said the USPSTF warning should be addressed by public health officials, OBGYNs, dermatologists and general practitioners alike.
In general, Dr. Katz insinuates that women need better access to medical care in general: "Clearly, then, gaps in public health and clinical practice remain, as reported in a study of 458 mothers of babies with congenital syphilis in 2014.6 Of those mothers, approximately 20% did not receive prenatal care. "
Of these women, 43% did not receive treatment because (1) they were not evaluated during pregnancy; (2) were negative at the beginning of pregnancy but acquired syphilis later; or (3) they tested positive but they were not treated, "he writes.
"At the beginning of the 21st century, syphilis, including congenital syphilis, still overshadows the earth."