Sexual and reproductive health

Investment case for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of syphilis: promoting better maternal and child health and stronger health systems

Dept. of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO

Front cover

Publication details

Number of pages: 30
Publication date: 2012
Languages: English
ISBN: 978 92 4 150434 8


Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of syphilis (commonly referred to as “congenital syphilis”) is relatively simple to eliminate and it is inexpensive to detect and treat, making it a possible “easy win” in terms of cost, feasibility and speed of scale-up. Investing in screening and treatment for syphilis in pregnant women ranks as one of the most cost-effective antenatal interventions. Screening all pregnant women, using simple and low-cost technologies, is feasible, even in low-resource settings. Syphilis is easily cured with penicillin, and MTCT of syphilis is easily prevented when pregnant mothers with syphilis infection are identified early and treated promptly. Penicillin is off patent, widely available, on the World Health Organization (WHO) list of essential medicines and, above all, inexpensive.