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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Sexually Transmitted Bacterial Infections (by ASCLS). Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Congenital Syphilis

  • Treponema pallidum can cross placenta at any stage of pregnancy or during delivery
  • Women with untreated primary, secondary, early latent, or late latent syphilis can infect the baby at delivery
    • ~ 30% of infants of mothers with primary syphilis, 60% of infants of mothers with secondary syphilis, 40% if mother is in latent stage, and 7% of infants if mother in tertiary syphilis

  • Treatment of the mother for syphilis ≥30 days before delivery is required for effective in utero treatment

  • More likely to infect fetus if mother is untreated longer

  • Stillbirth possible
  • If baby not treated, seizures, developmental delay, or death can occur
  • Symptoms in newborns include:
    • Failure to thrive
    • Rash
    • Saddle nose or watery discharge (snuffles)
    • Irritability
  • Symptoms in older babies and young children include:
    • Abnormal peg-like teeth
    • Bone and joint pain
    • Cornea cloudiness and blindness
    • Deafness
    • Gray, mucous patches

Provided by CDC PHIL/ Susan Lindsley, VD