Drug shortages, lack of action to blame in congenital syphilis ‘crisis,’ public health expert says

Cases of STIs — sexually transmitted infections — are at epidemic levels in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

That fact poses a significant threat not only to the health of U.S. adults, but the health of the unborn as well, new data shows. The CDC reported this week that there were more than 3,700 cases of congenital syphilis in 2022, which is roughly 11 times higher than case counts from 2012. 

Citing lack of timely testing and treatment, health officials say the situation is “dire,” and are urging further action to protect mothers and newborns from potentially life-threatening complications associated with the infection. Additionally, a shortage in antibiotics to treat the infection — combined with lack of interest on the part of drugmakers — has snowballed into a “crisis,” experts say.

“The congenital syphilis epidemic is an unacceptable American crisis,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said. “All pregnant mothers — regardless of who they are or where they live — deserve access to care that protects them and their babies from preventable disease.”

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