Warning Issued: Doctors observe a sharp increase in STDs among newborns in the US

Doctors and health experts are warning that syphilis cases among newborns in the United States are on the rise, with a doctors’ group now encouraging all pregnant patients to be examined three times for the sexually transmitted infection.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued new recommendations on Thursday, advising healthcare professionals to test for syphilis at three important stages during pregnancy: the initial prenatal appointment, the third trimester, and again at birth. While not required, medical professionals often follow ACOG recommendations.

Warning Issued: Doctors observe a sharp increase in STDs among newborns in the US

“The number of cases of congenital syphilis is undoubtedly increasing, and it has been for the past decade. And it’s entirely preventable‚Ķ “It’s unacceptable,” Dr. Laura Riley, who leads the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine and contributed to the guidance, told the Associated Press. “We need to be able to do better diagnostics and treatment.”

Previously, the committee only advised one test in the third trimester, primarily for women who were at risk of syphilis exposure during pregnancy or lived in high-prevalence neighborhoods. Riley did, however, highlight the limits of this risk-based strategy, saying that it frequently results in overlooked cases.

What is syphilis?

Syphilis, according to the Centers for Illness Control and Prevention, is a sexually transmitted illness (STD) caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria.

The disease spreads from person to person through direct contact with a syphilitic sore, also known as a chancre. Syphilis can spread during sex, and pregnant women with syphilis can pass the virus to their unborn children.

The CDC revealed that in 2022, more than 3,700 newborns were born with congenital syphilis, the highest number in more than 30 years.

Warning Issued: Doctors observe a sharp increase in STDs among newborns in the US

Syphilis can have major health consequences if not treated properly, highlighting US health experts’ urge for increased preventative efforts, including mass screening with blood testing.

In their warning, the OB-GYN group stated that CDC figures suggest nearly 90% of congenital syphilis cases that year “could have been prevented with timely screening and treatment.”

How to treat syphilis when pregnant?

Syphilis infections during pregnancy are routinely treated with several doses of penicillin. Untreated syphilis in expecting mothers can lead to stillbirths or neonatal deaths immediately after delivery, as well as severe problems in babies such as bone abnormalities, anemia, blindness, or deafness.

“I hope that everyone takes it seriously,” Riley remarked. Children with congenital syphilis may have life-threatening birth abnormalities, “which is incredibly sad.”

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