Early Childhood Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Infants Exposed to Infectious Syphilis In Utero

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There are minimal neurodevelopmental follow-up data for infants exposed to syphilis in utero.


This is an inception cohort study of infants exposed to syphilis in utero. We reviewed women with reactive syphilis serology in pregnancy or at delivery in Edmonton (Canada), 2002 through 2010 and describe the neurodevelopmental outcomes of children with and without congenital syphilis.


There were 39 births to women with reactive syphilis serology, 9 of whom had late latent syphilis (n = 4), stillbirths (n = 2) or early neonatal deaths (n = 3), leaving 30 survivors of which 11 with and 7 without congenital syphilis had neurodevelopmental assessment. Those with congenital syphilis were all born to women with inadequate syphilis treatment before delivery. Neurodevelopmental impairment was documented in 3 of 11 (27%) infants with congenital syphilis and one of 7 (14%) without congenital syphilis with speech language delays in 4 of 11 (36%) with congenital syphilis and 3 of 7 (42%) without congenital syphilis.


Infants born to mothers with reactive syphilis serology during pregnancy are at high risk for neurodevelopmental impairment, whether or not they have congenital syphilis, so should all be offered neurodevelopmental assessments and early referral for services as required.

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