News / Health

Many Syphilis-Infected Pregnant Women Not Being Diagnosed, Treated

FILE - A pregnant woman in Uganda, September 27, 2011.FILE - A pregnant woman in Uganda, September 27, 2011.
x
FILE - A pregnant woman in Uganda, September 27, 2011.
FILE - A pregnant woman in Uganda, September 27, 2011.
Jessica Berman
More than one million pregnant women worldwide are infected with syphilis.  Worse still is that many of them don’t know they're infected,  which puts them and their unborn child at serious risk. The problem, a new World Health Organization study finds, is that in many regions of the world, testing and treatment services for the venereal disease are not as widely available as they should be.  

Syphilis is a sexually-transmitted disease that, according to WHO estimates, infected 1.4 million women globally in 2008.  Using data from 97 countries and 147 pre-natal clinics, investigators found that only 30 percent of women in Africa and the Mediterranean were adequately tested and treated for the disease. The percentage of women diagnosed and treated for syphilis in Europe was 70 percent.

Researchers say syphilis infections caused some 520,000 bad pregnancy outcomes, including 215,000 stillbirths, 90,000 infant deaths and 65,000 pre-term or low-weight babies. The disease was also responsible for 150,000 birth defects, according to researchers, who used a mathematical model to arrive at their conclusions.

Lead researcher Lori Newman says the bacterium which causes syphilis crosses the placenta, affecting the fetus at a critical time of development.

“At about 16 or 17 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s immune system starts to kick in and become active, the baby’s and the mother’s response to the infection is to cause a stillbirth or to cause severe organ damage," said Newman.

Newman, an analyst with the World Health Organization in Geneva, led the study. Newman said she is most troubled by the fact that an estimated two-thirds of the women who endured bad pregnancy outcomes had visited pre-natal clinics but were not tested for syphilis, which is easy to treat with antibiotics.

“People know historically that syphilis was a serious disease," she said. "But people thought once penicillin was invented, that it was a disease we had conquered.  But it’s important for these data [to] be shared with the world to make people understand that syphilis is still killing babies and affecting women and men all over the world.”

Newman says researchers are in the process of updating their data to encourage early diagnosis and treatment of syphilis in expectant mothers.

The study assessing the global burden of syphilis in pregnant women is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs