Syphilis Screening Key to Children’s Health, say Experts

Posted by BBC News on Jun 16th, 2011 and filed under Health Tips, Latest News Update. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

How can half a million children’s lives be saved? A new study says screening moms-to-be for syphilis – a major root cause of stillbirth and newborn death – is the answer.

But not enough moms in developing countries are obtaining the blood test, which costs less than $1.50.

“Screening is really effective at bringing down death rates and illness rates, but regrettably the majority of pregnant women on earth are still not screened for syphilis,” study author Dr. Sarah Hawkes, global health professor at the University College London, told Reuters.

For the study – published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases – research workers from the University College London analyzed information from 10 studies involving 41,000 women. They discovered screening moms with the cheap blood test resulted in 54 percent fewer stillbirths and miscarriages.

More than 2 million pregnant women worldwide are infected with syphilis each year – mostly in Africa – and some don’t even comprehend it. That’s why more than half of them transmit syphilis to their baby, producing stillbirth or premature birth, or complications like a low birth weight. Children delivered with syphilis who aren’t treated immediately may develop seizures or die within weeks.

The experts think if health officials invest more money in a global screening effort, they can prevent these needless deaths.

“We can so easily stop this,” Peter Piot, director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told Reuters. “Syphilis is invisible: if you don’t test for it you don’t find it.”

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