The Ministry of Health and Wellness in Barbados has expressed concern about the high rates of syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI), being seen among pregnant women in Barbados.
Dr. Anton Best, Senior Medical Officer of Health with responsibility for the HIV/STI Program, revealed that while the national outbreak which was previously reported was mainly seen in men, the Ministry was now seeing an abnormally high rate of syphilis in pregnant women and, by extension, an increase in the number of babies born at risk for congenital syphilis.
Statistics show a rise from the average one or two cases a year of syphilis in pregnant women to 17 in 2016. According to the Ministry official, preliminary analyses from 2017 show a similarly high rate.
All pregnant women should be screened
Dr. Best said effective prevention and detection of congenital syphilis depended on the identification of the STI in pregnant women. He noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ guidelines made it clear that all pregnant women should be offered a screening test for syphilis at booking and at 28 weeks’ gestation.
Congenital syphilis is a potentially severe, disabling and often life-threatening infection seen in infants. The syphilis bacterium is transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and/or delivery, and this could cause severe illness in babies including premature birth, low birth weight, birth defects, blindness and hearing loss. It could also lead to stillbirth and infant death.