Syphilis cases in US newborns skyrocketed in 2022

Alarmed by yet another jump in syphilis cases in newborns, U.S. health officials are calling for stepped-up prevention measures, including encouraging millions of women of childbearing age and their partners to get tested for the sexually transmitted disease.

More than 3,700 babies were born with congenital syphilis in 2022 — 10 times more than a decade ago and a 32% increase from 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Syphilis caused 282 stillbirth and infant deaths, nearly 16 times more than the 2012 deaths.

The 2022 count was the most in more than 30 years, CDC officials said, and in more than half of the congenital syphilis cases, the mothers tested positive during pregnancy but did not get properly treated.

The rise in congenital syphilis comes despite repeated warnings by public health agencies and it’s tied to the surge in primary and secondary cases of syphilis in adults, CDC officials said. It’s also been increasingly difficult for medical providers to get benzathine penicillin injections — the main medical weapon against congenital syphilis — because of supply shortages.