The introduction of syphilis point of care tests in resource limited settings

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2017 Apr;17(4):321-325. doi: 10.1080/14737159.2017.1303379. Epub 2017 Mar 14.


Syphilis remains an important and preventable cause of stillbirth and neonatal mortality. About 1 million women with active syphilis become pregnant each year. Without treatment, 25% of them will deliver a stillborn baby and 33% a low birth weight baby with an increased chance of dying in the first month of life. Adverse pregnancy outcomes due to syphilis can be prevented by screening pregnant women, and treating those who test positive with a single dose of penicillin before 28 weeks' gestation. Areas covered: This manuscript covers the impact of syphilis on pregnancy outcome, the diagnosis of syphilis, with a special focus on point of care (POC) tests, and challenges to the introduction of POC tests, and their potential impact on the control and prevention of syphilis in resource limited settings. Expert commentary: POC tests for syphilis are available which meet the ASSURED criteria, and could make syphilis screening accessible to all women anywhere in the world who attend an antenatal clinic. High quality dual POC tests for HIV and syphilis could ensure that well-funded programmes for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV can contribute towards increased coverage of antenatal syphilis screening, and prevent more than 300,000 adverse pregnancy outcomes due to syphilis annually. Alongside investment to increase availability of syphilis POC tests, operational research is needed to understand how best to improve screening of pregnant women and to translate test availability into improved pregnancy outcomes.

Keywords: Syphilis; point of care tests; prenatal screening; stillbirths.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Syphilis / diagnosis*
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • Syphilis / prevention & control