Background: To estimate probability of adverse pregnancy outcomes (APOs) among women with and without syphilis through a systematic review of published literatures.
Methodology/principal findings: Chinese and English literatures were searched for studies assessing pregnancy outcomes in the presence of maternal syphilis through August 2013. The prevalence estimates were summarized and analyzed by meta-analysis. Fifty-four literatures involving 11398 syphilitic women and 43342 non-syphilitic women were included from 4187 records initially found. Among untreated mothers with syphilis, pooled estimates were 76.8% for all APOs, 36.0% for congenital syphilis, 23.2% for preterm, 23.4% for low birth weight, 26.4% for stillbirth or fetal loss, 14.9% for miscarriage and 16.2% for neonatal deaths. Among syphilitic mother receiving treatment only in the late trimester (>28 weeks), pooled estimates were 64.4% for APOs, 40.6% for congenital syphilis, 17.6% for preterm, 12.4% for low birth weight, and 21.3% for stillbirth or fetal loss. Among syphilitic mothers with high titers (≥1∶8), pooled estimates were 42.8% for all APOs, 25.8% for congenital syphilis, 15.1% for preterm, 9.4% for low birth weight, 14.6% for stillbirth or fetal loss and 16.0% for neonatal deaths. Among non-syphilitic mothers, the pooled estimates were 13.7% for all APOs, 7.2% for preterm birth, 4.5% for low birth weight, 3.7% for stillbirth or fetal loss, 2.3% for miscarriage and 2.0% for neonatal death. Begg's rank correlation test indicated little evidence of publication bias (P>0.10). Substantial heterogeneity was found across studies in the estimates of all adverse outcomes for both women with syphilis (I2 = 93.9%; P<0.0001) and women without syphilis (I2 = 94.8%; P<0.0001).
Conclusions/significance: Syphilis continues to be an important cause of substantial perinatal morbidity and mortality, which reminds that policy-makers charged with resource allocation that the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis is a public health priority.