|Description:||This image depicts the perineal region and upper thighs of an infant born with what was diagnosed as congenital syphilis. In this particular case, one will note the presence of early cutaneous syphilids.|
How does syphilis affect a pregnant woman and her baby
The syphilis bacterium can infect the baby of a woman during her pregnancy. Depending on how long a pregnant woman has been infected, she may have a high risk of having a stillbirth (a baby born dead) or of giving birth to a baby who dies shortly after birth. An infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms of disease. However, if not treated immediately, the baby may develop serious problems within a few weeks. Untreated babies may become developmentally delayed, have seizures, or die.
Infants born to mothers who have reactive nontreponemal and treponemal test results should be evaluated with a quantitative nontreponemal serologic test (RPR or VDRL) performed on infant serum because umbilical cord blood can become contaminated with maternal blood and could yield a false-positive result. Conducting a treponemal test (i.e., TP-PA or FTA-ABS) on a newborn’s serum is not necessary. No commercially available immunoglobulin (IgM) test can be recommended.
All infants born to women who have reactive serologic tests for syphilis should be examined thoroughly for evidence of congenital syphilis (e.g., nonimmune hydrops, jaundice, hepatosplenomegaly, rhinitis, skin rash, and/or pseudoparalysis of an extremity). Pathologic examination of the umbilical cord by using specific fluorescent antitreponemal antibody staining is suggested. Dark field microscopic examination or DFA staining of suspicious lesions or body fluids (e.g., nasal discharge) also should be performed.