Reaching beyond pregnant women to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of syphilis in Africa

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Congenital syphilis is a devastating disease that can be prevented by screening and treatment of infected pregnant women. The WHO is leading a global initiative to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of syphilis with a goal of ≤50 congenital syphilis cases per 100,000 live births and targets of 95% antenatal care, 95% syphilis testing, and 95% treatment coverage. We estimated current congenital syphilis rates for 43 African countries, and additional scenarios in a subset of 9 countries. Our analysis suggested that only 4 of 43 countries are likely to currently have a congenital syphilis rate ≤50 per 100,000 live births, and none of the 9 countries could reach this goal even in 5 different scenarios with improved services. To achieve the eliminate mother-to-child-transmission goal, it appears necessary to intervene beyond services for pregnant women, and decrease prevalence of syphilis in the general population as well.

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