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More than 100,000 pregnant women in India can pass Syphilis to children: report


In India in 2012, more than 100,000 pregnant women in India had syphilis, and more than half of those newborns were affected. Syphilis has severe health impact, ranging from early fetal loss to stillbirth and premature birth.

A new report from the international nonprofit PATH highlights the toll that parent-to-child transmission of syphilis has on Indian mothers and their babies. The report, ""Congenital Syhilis in Nigeria, Zambia, and India: Identifying Policy Pathways to Eliminae Mother-to-Child Transmission of Syphilis,"" details the severe health issues caused by congenital syphilis, which range from early fetal loss to stillbirth and premature birth.

According to the report, there are existing solutions to this issue because congenital syphilis is easily detectable with rapid, point-of-care diagnostics and easily treatable with antibiotics, and that no mother or newborn should suffer.

In recent years, Indian government has committed to eliminate congenital syphilis and has made significant progress in reducing cases through strengthened policies, testing, and treatment. Though failure of some States to take advantage of available funding for test kits, screening data gaps, and incomplete guideline dissemination have all stalled improvements.

“Congenital syphilis is an absolutely avoidable burden on our mothers and newborns. India’s decision-makers should continue their work to ensure we are doing all we can to bring us toward elimination,” said Nitya Nand Deepak, knowledge management leader and maternal and child health expert at PATH in India.

The report outlines specific actions saying that decision-makers should ensure that all mothers are tested and treated, so that no babies suffer from syphilis. The report recommends scaling up guideline dissemination and training for state program managers and health care workers at lower levels of care.

Ensuring state decision-makers are using all available resources for obtaining tests and treatment and creating a comprehensive way to monitor India’s progress toward congenital syphilis elimination targets are some other recommendations made in the report.

While the recommendations require concerted effort, the report confidently presents them as feasible and crucial ways to improve India’s maternal and newborn health. The paper concludes that “new technologies, awareness, and commitments mean that elimination is within sight. To ensure progress, governments and global stakeholders…must develop strong policies and strategies aligned with existing programs, advocate for political prioritization that includes clear national targets, finance diagnostics and treatment, and consistently implement policies throughout the health care system.”

PATH is an international nonprofit organization which saves lives and improves health, especially among women and children. PATH accelerates innovation across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, system and service innovations—that harness our entrepreneurial insights, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity."

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