Reversing a 14-year decline, 23% more U.S. infants were born with syphilis in 2008 than in 2005, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Thursday, Reuters reports. The findings show that syphilis rates, which have increased among men who have sex with men, also are increasing in the heterosexual community, the researchers said. Many of the infants with syphilis were born to women in the South who use crack cocaine and work in the commercial sex trade, according to the report. These increases “might portend a larger increase in the congenital syphilis rate in 2009 and future years,” according to the report. If a pregnant woman is infected with syphilis, it can lead to death, deafness, nerve damage or bone deformities in the infant, according to Reuters. Antibiotic treatment at least one month before birth can prevent such outcomes.
For the report, CDC researchers analyzed cases of congenital syphilis, which doctors are required to report to state health departments. They found that the rate of the infection among infants younger than one year increased from 8.2 cases per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 10.1 cases per 100,000 live births in 2008. The report noted that the increase followed a 38% rise from 2004 to 2007 in the syphilis rate among women ages 10 and older (Reuters, 4/15).