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Untreated syphilis infection in pregnant women can be transmitted to the fetus (congenital syphilis) at any time during pregnancy or at birth. Congenital syphilis is associated with stillbirth, neonatal death, and significant morbidity in infants (eg, bone deformities and neurologic impairment). After a steady decline from 2008 to 2012, cases of congenital syphilis markedly increased from 2012 to 2106, from 8.4 to 15.7 cases per 100 000 live births (an increase of 87%). At the same time, national rates of syphilis increased among women of reproductive age.
To update the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2009 recommendation on screening for syphilis infection in pregnant women.
The USPSTF commissioned a reaffirmation evidence update to identify new and substantial evidence sufficient enough to change its prior recommendation. Given the established benefits and practice of screening for syphilis in pregnant women, the USPSTF targeted its evidence review on the direct benefits of screening on the prevention of congenital syphilis morbidity and mortality and the harms of screening for and treatment of syphilis infection in pregnant women.
Using a reaffirmation process, the USPSTF found that accurate screening algorithms are available to identify syphilis infection. Effective treatment with antibiotics can prevent congenital syphilis and significantly decrease adverse pregnancy outcomes, with small associated harms, providing an overall substantial health benefit. Therefore, the USPSTF reaffirms its previous conclusion that there is convincing evidence that screening for syphilis infection in pregnant women provides substantial benefit.
Conclusions and Recommendation
The USPSTF recommends early screening for syphilis infection in all pregnant women. (A recommendation)
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Corresponding Author: Susan J. Curry, PhD, The University of Iowa, 111 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for Publication: July 25, 2018.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Susan J. Curry, PhD; Alex H. Krist, MD, MPH; Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS; Michael J. Barry, MD; Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD; Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc; Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH; John W. Epling Jr, MD, MSEd; Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; Ann E. Kurth, PhD, RN, MSN, MPH; C. Seth Landefeld, MD; Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH; Chien-Wen Tseng, MD, MPH, MSEE; John B. Wong, MD.
Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: University of Iowa, Iowa City (Curry); Fairfax Family Practice Residency, Fairfax, Virginia (Krist); Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Krist); Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California (Owens); Stanford University, Stanford, California (Owens); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland (Caughey); Columbia University, New York, New York (Davidson); University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Doubeni); Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke (Epling); Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio (Kemper); Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Kubik); Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (Kurth); University of Alabama at Birmingham (Landefeld); University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (Phipps); Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Silverstein); Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (Simon); University of Hawaii, Honolulu (Tseng); Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Tseng); Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts (Wong).
Author Contributions: Dr Curry had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/conflict-of-interest-disclosures. All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings. No other disclosures were reported.
Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.
Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Additional Contributions: We thank Jill Huppert, MD, MPH (AHRQ), and Tina Fan, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.
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