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Sante. 1999 Jan-Feb;9(1):38-45.

[Congenital syphilis: update and perspectives].

[Article in French]

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Service de néonatalogie de l'hôpital Gatien de Clocheville, CHU de Tours, 49, bd Béranger, 37000 Tours, France.


Congenital syphilis is responsible for a variety of clinical symptoms, from subclinical attacks to septicemic forms that may be fatal. The most frequently encountered forms typically involve low birth weight, heptosplenomegaly and jaundice. Premature birth, anemia, cutaneous lesions, coryza, anasarca and pseudoparalysis may also occur. Neonatal X rays generally show characteristic but nonspecific osteochondrocyte lesions and periosteous dystrophy. A clinical form partly associated with growing tissues may be detected late. Diagnosis of fetal syphilis depends on the detection by immunofluorescence of specific IgM immunoglobulins in the newborn. Parenteral antibiotic treatment with 100,000 IU penicillin/ for 15 days is given to newborns with symptoms. The classification and treatment of asymptomatic forms is unclear. A single injection of benzathine-penicillin is a good compromise between simple surveillance and admission to hospital for 10 days of intravenous treatment. In any case, serological surveillance is required to check that IgM disappears from the blood or that the titer of IgG decreases. Reinfection is always possible, even in a newborn treated correctly. In developing countries, pediatricians must be aware of the various clinical forms of congenital syphilis. In addition, national programs to combat sexually transmitted diseases should be supported and developed by international aid agencies. In economically advanced countries, attention is currently focused on the restricted nature of medical treatment. Improvements in the management of congenital syphilis depend above all on dealing with the social and cultural problems of populations affected by syphilis.

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