The Brazil Ministry of Health reports recording 79,587 cases of syphilis, 31,090 cases of syphilis in pregnant women and 12,014 cases of congenital syphilis in the country through June 2022.
This is generally in line with 2021 when more than 167,000 new cases of syphilis were registered in Brazil, with a detection rate of 78.5 cases for each group of 100 thousand population; 74,000 cases in pregnant women, and 27,000 occurrences of congenital syphilis, with a rate of 9.9 in children under one year of age per 1,000 live births; and 192 deaths from congenital syphilis, with a rate of 7.0 per 100,000 live births.
Syphilis presents in primary, secondary, latent and tertiary stages. In the primary and secondary stages, the possibility of transmission is greater, via sexual intercourse with an infected person. The most serious cases of acquired syphilis are observed in the tertiary stage, because if there is no adequate treatment, serious complications can arise, such as skin, bone, cardiovascular and neurological lesions, which can lead to death. At all stages, syphilis can be transmitted to a child during pregnancy or childbirth.
Congenital syphilis can have serious consequences for the baby, such as deafness, blindness, bone changes and mental deficiency, which can lead to death. Therefore, every pregnant woman should be tested in the first prenatal consultation (ideally, in the 1st trimester of pregnancy); at the beginning of the 3rd trimester (28th week); at the time of delivery, or in case of abortion/stillbirth, regardless of previous examinations.
The rapid syphilis test is available at SUS health services, being practical and easy to perform, with reading the result in a maximum of 30 minutes, without the need for a laboratory structure. In 2022, until September, 9.5 million rapid tests were distributed to all states and the Federal District. The number exceeds the number of deliveries made in the whole of 2021, which was 9.03 million.
“The testing rate has increased, which makes it possible to expand the diagnosis of the disease, especially among pregnant women, and also to offer treatment in a timely manner”, observes Angelica Espinosa Miranda, the general coordinator of the Surveillance of Sexually Transmitted Infections at the Ministry of Health.
According to the ministry, to prevent syphilis, it is essential to use male or female condoms. It is the only way to avoid the disease. In 2022 alone, Brazil distributed 293.9 million male and 4.5 million female condoms to the 26 states and the Federal District.
Syphilis is treated with antibiotics, which can be found in Basic Health Units. In the case of pregnant women, due to the risk of transmission to the fetus, treatment should be started only with a positive test, without having to wait for the result of the second test.
Syphilis infection can put both the adult and the baby at risk during pregnancy. Therefore, monitoring and testing of pregnant women and sexual partners during prenatal care is recommended in order to prevent congenital syphilis.
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