Disease pathophysiology: Syphilis is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis. Other human diseases caused by related Treponema pallidum include yaws (subspecies pertenue), pinta (subspecies carateum) and bejel (subspecies endemicum).
Disease Statistics: The congenital syphilis (CS) is still a major public health concern, even after the implementation of intervention protocols in several countries. The worldwide prevalence of syphilis during pregnancy ranges from 0.11 to 8.40 In Brazil, the global prevalence is 2.6, ranging from 1.0 to 4.4. In Fortaleza city (the capital of the state of Ceara) this prevalence is 2.3. In all, 29,544 cases of syphilis amongst pregnant women were registered from June 2005 to June 2010. Even considering the health records failures in Brazil, these data show the low quality of prenatal care.
When syphilis in pregnant women is not properly treated, it may cause abortion, neonatal and fetal death, preterm birth, intrauterine growth retardation, and long-term harm to the baby’s health. The persistence of the disease punctuates the need for international and national actions for an effective implementation of necessary measures, once its control may contribute to the reduction of infant mortality, which is one of the Millennium Development Goal. Universal screening for syphilis in pregnant women using the Venereal Diseases Research Laboratory (VDRL) and non-treponemal tests along with a high quality prenatal care are some of the most important strategies recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Brazilian Ministry of Health for the elimination of CS as a public health problem.