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Original article

Vol. 153 No. 11 (2023)

Congenital syphilis in Switzerland: a retrospective cohort study, 2010 to 2019

  • Gioia Scherler
  • Maren Tomaske
  • Vincenzo Cannizzaro
  • Anna Steppacher
  • Franziska Zucol
  • Martin Theiler
  • Laurence Toutous Trellu
  • Anton Labutin
  • Philipp P. Bosshard
  • Christoph Berger
  • Patrick M. Meyer Sauteur
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2023;153:40121


AIMS OF THE STUDY: We previously reported a re-emergence of syphilis from 2006 to 2009 with detection of congenital syphilis in Switzerland. This study aimed to reassess the incidence of children exposed to maternal syphilis during pregnancy and congenital syphilis in a following 10-year period in the canton of Zurich, the most populous canton in Switzerland with the highest incidences of syphilis.

METHODS: Children were identified both by reviewing medical records at the four major neonatal and paediatric hospitals providing acute care in the canton of Zurich and by the serological database of the syphilis reference laboratory. Inclusion criteria for children were (a) date of birth in the period 2010–2019, (b) place of birth in the canton of Zurich, (c) evaluation for syphilis due to positive syphilis pregnancy screening and (d) age <1 year at diagnosis. Results were compared with epidemiological data provided by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

RESULTS: We identified and evaluated 17 children after potential exposure to maternal syphilis. Residual antibodies of a past infection were found in 11 mothers. Six children were identified as having had real exposure to asymptomatic maternal syphilis. From an epidemiological perspective, the distribution of the cases followed a similar pattern as confirmed syphilis cases in women of childbearing age reported to the FOPH. No cases of congenital syphilis were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: In contrast to the rise in syphilis infections, this study identified no cases of congenital syphilis in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland, in the period 2010–2019. Syphilis pregnancy screening may have prevented congenital syphilis by diagnosing and allowing adequate treatment of asymptomatic maternal syphilis.


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