Congenital syphilis rises after 14-year decline.
In 2008, there were 431 cases of congenital syphilis (CS) reported to state and local health departments in the United States, according to the report on the trends in CS cases in the United States, based on national surveillance data between 2003 and 2008 (MMWR 2010;14:413-17).
However, this was an increase from 339 cases reported in 2005. And the CS rate increased by 23% during this time, from 8.2 cases per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 10.1 cases per 100,000 live births in 2008. Most of this increase was attributed to trends in the South, where the rate increased from 9.6 to 15.7/100,000 live births between 2005 and 2008-a 64% increase. In the Northeast, the rate increased from 4.2 to 5.4/100,000 live births--a 29% increase.
Before this time, the CS rates had dropped, from 10.6 cases per 100,000 live births in 2003, to 8.2 cases per 100,000 live births in 2005 (which continued the decline from 1995, when the rate was almost 50 cases per 100,000 live births). The number of CS cases dropped from 432 in 2003 to 339 in 2005.
The increase in CS cases between 2005 and 2008 was preceded by a 38% increase in the rate of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis among females aged 10 and older from 2004 to 2007, which continued to increase in 2008, according to the report, which noted that this trend may have been associated with the use of crack cocaine and commercial sex work.
Between 2005 and 2008, most of the increase in CS was seen among infants born to black mothers. In this group, the CS rate increased from 26.6 to 34.6 per 100,000 live births between 2005 and 2008--a 30% increase. (There were 156 cases in 2005 and 215 cases in 2008.)
Between 2005 and 2008, there was a 2% increase in the CS rate among infants born to Hispanic mothers (from 12.6 to 12.8 cases per 100,000 live births) and a 115% increase among infants born to white mothers (from 1.3 to 2.8 cases per 100,000 live births).
In 2008, infants of black mothers accounted for 50% of CS cases; infants of Hispanic mothers, 31%; infants of white mothers, 15%; and infants of Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaskan Native mothers, 2% and 1%. The remaining 1% of infants had mothers of unknown race/ethnicity.
The CDC recommends that all pregnant women be tested for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, but the mothers of 125 (nearly 30%) of the 431 infants with CS reported in 2008 had not received prenatal care, and syphilis was detected at delivery. Of the 276 infants (64%) whose mothers had received prenatal care, the mothers of 75 infants (27%) were first screened for syphilis within 30 days of delivery; 67 (24%) mothers had a positive screen more than 30 days before delivery but had not been treated. For the remaining 30 infants, whether the mother had received prenatal care was not known.
Of the cases reported in 2008, 25 (6%) were stillborn and 3 (1%) died within 30 days of delivery, for a case-fatality ratio of 6.5%.