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Int J STD AIDS. 1992 May-Jun;3(3):161-7.

Congenital syphilis.



In the US and northern Europe, the prevalence of pregnant syphilitic women is estimated at .1-.6%, while in South Africa it was 7.6% in 1982. In 1978, there 108 cases in the US which increased to 268 reported cases in 1985. The increase of congenital syphilis (CS) by 25% from 1985 to 1988 was attributed to the spread of crack cocaine in the US. The rate was 10.5 cases/100,000 live births in the US during this period, a 21% increase. In contrast, in the Netherlands there were 2.5 cases/100,000 live births during 1982-85. Clinical symptoms appear 3 weeks after birth, but some are present at birth such as hepatosplenomegaly, bloated abdomen, cutaneous lesions, and nasal discharge turning into purulent rhinitis. Anemia occurs in 90% of children with CS. Generalized lymphadenopathy, splenomegaly with hepatomegaly, and syphilitic hepatitis may also occur. Syphilitic skeletal abnormalities include osteochondritis, periostitis, osteomyelitis, and osteitis. Meningovascular syphilis produces nervous system effects. CS complications include nephrotic syndrome and acute glomerulonephritis. Ocular abnormalities are caused by treponemes found in the cornea, sclera, uvea, retina and the optic nerve. Chorioretinitis and iridocyclitis are common ocular lesions. The pathogen Treponema pallidum can be diagnosed by dark field microscopy, by immunofluorescence, or by histopathological examination of silver-stained preparations. Pregnancy women with syphilis are treated with penicillin although failures have been reported after single or 2 or 3 in administrations of 2.4 MU benzathine penicillin and after giving tetracycline in 3rd trimester pregnancy. The CDC recommendation for treating infants with CS is iv 50,000 U/kg penicillin G every 8-12 hours for 10-14 days or im 50,000 U procaine penicillin once daily for 10-14 days. Single administration of 50,000 U/kg benzathine penicillin is recommended for newborn children whose mothers have been treated with erythromycin.

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