Sexual and reproductive health

Eliminating congenital syphilis

Syphilis in pregnancy

Two antenatal care nurses providing syphilis screening in Mongolia
Two antenatal care nurses providing syphilis screening in Mongolia

Over a million pregnant women infected with syphilis worldwide, causing serious health problems and even death to their babies.

Publication front cover

Investment case for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of syphilis


Congenital syphilis is a neglected public-health problem and the availability of cost-effective diagnosis and treatment is not a priority for many countries.


WHO Global Health Observatory

Initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and syphilis

The term "congenital syphilis" has traditionally been used to describe the adverse outcomes of syphilis infection in pregnancy. In 2012 expert consensus suggested that, whenever possible, the term "mother-to-child-transmission of syphilis" should be used in place of congenital syphilis in order to increase awareness of the full spectrum of adverse outcomes, including stillbirths, neonatal deaths, premature and low birth weight infants, as well as deformities at birth.

The global community has committed itself and the initiative focuses on a harmonized approach to improving health outcomes for mothers and children. A document outlining minimum global processes and criteria for validation of EMTCT of HIV and/or syphilis will be released in 2014.