LOUIS — Because of the increasing prevalence of syphilis in
the St. Louis region and an alarming number of babies born
last year with the sexually transmitted disease, city and
county health officials are recommending all pregnant women
get screened for the disease late in pregnancy and at
the state, zero to three babies are born a year with
congenital syphilis, officials say. But last year, 10 babies
were born with the disease. Six were in the urban areas of
Kansas City and St. Louis.
results are devastating, explained Dr. Hilary Reno, infectious
disease expert at Washington University School of Medicine.
Nearly 40 percent of exposed babies are stillborn, and other
outcomes include blindness, deafness and bone deformities.
number is small, but the consequences of congenital syphilis
are so severe, and the test is readily available and
easy," Reno said. "Any case of congenital syphilis
should have been prevented."
law already requires syphilis testing with a blood test for
all pregnant women in the first trimester. Because women who
remain sexually active during pregnancy can still contract the
disease, local health officials are recommending testing again
during the third trimester and at delivery.
involves one to three shots of penicillin. Those with
penicillin allergies should be desensitized.
2012 and 2016 in the city and county, Reno said, rates for
early syphilis (within a year of infection, when the disease
is most infectious) rose 86 percent — from 11.8 to 22 per
100,000 people. While most syphilis cases involve men, the
number of women contracting it is increasing.
have also increased nationwide. Cases of congenital syphilis
rose 39 percent between 2012 and 2014, federal data show.
symptoms include a sore at the site of sexual contact that is
not painful. The sore usually gets better, then a rash appears
on the palms, soles and sometimes the trunk. The rash also
goes away on its own. Because of these mild symptoms in the
early and infectious stages, many people don’t get tested.
are concerned we are going to miss women and not treat them
early enough in pregnancy if we don’t do this universal
testing," Reno said.