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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid