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Bull World Health Organ. 1993;71(6):773-80.

Syphilis-associated perinatal and infant mortality in rural Malawi.

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  • 1Epidemiologist, Malaria Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333.


In Mangochi District, a rural area of Malawi, the prevalence of active syphilis was 3.6% among 3591 women who had singleton births and who were negative for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Compared with non-syphilitic women, those with active syphilis (positive Venereal Disease Research Laboratory/rapid plasmin reagin tests (titre > or = 1:8) and a reactive microhaemagglutination assay) were more likely to experience stillbirths as well as the early and late neonatal deaths and even postneonatal deaths of their children. Characteristics associated with active syphilis were not very useful in targeting women at high risk of having the condition, which makes universal screening in antenatal programmes the most efficacious way to prevent syphilis-associated morbidity and mortality. The potential for a programme to prevent congenital syphilis in the perinatal, neonatal, and post-neonatal periods is evident. In considering resource allocation to child survival programmes in areas where the prevalence of syphilis is high, officials need to include antenatal syphilis screening, using rapid tests and treatment at the first contact of the mother with the health care system.

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