The prevalence and incidence of active syphilis in women in Morocco, 1995-2016: Model-based estimation and implications for STI surveillance

PLoS One. 2017 Aug 24;12(8):e0181498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181498. eCollection 2017.


Background: Evolving health priorities and resource constraints mean that countries require data on trends in sexually transmitted infections (STI) burden, to inform program planning and resource allocation. We applied the Spectrum STI estimation tool to estimate the prevalence and incidence of active syphilis in adult women in Morocco over 1995 to 2016. The results from the analysis are being used to inform Morocco's national HIV/STI strategy, target setting and program evaluation.

Methods: Syphilis prevalence levels and trends were fitted through logistic regression to data from surveys in antenatal clinics, women attending family planning clinics and other general adult populations, as available post-1995. Prevalence data were adjusted for diagnostic test performance, and for the contribution of higher-risk populations not sampled in surveys. Incidence was inferred from prevalence by adjusting for the average duration of infection with active syphilis.

Results: In 2016, active syphilis prevalence was estimated to be 0.56% in women 15 to 49 years of age (95% confidence interval, CI: 0.3%-1.0%), and around 21,675 (10,612-37,198) new syphilis infections have occurred. The analysis shows a steady decline in prevalence from 1995, when the prevalence was estimated to be 1.8% (1.0-3.5%). The decline was consistent with decreasing prevalences observed in TB patients, fishermen and prisoners followed over 2000-2012 through sentinel surveillance, and with a decline since 2003 in national HIV incidence estimated earlier through independent modelling.

Conclusions: Periodic population-based surveys allowed Morocco to estimate syphilis prevalence and incidence trends. This first-ever undertaking engaged and focused national stakeholders, and confirmed the still considerable syphilis burden. The latest survey was done in 2012 and so the trends are relatively uncertain after 2012. From 2017 Morocco plans to implement a system to record data from routine antenatal programmatic screening, which should help update and re-calibrate next trend estimations.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Morocco / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Prevalence
  • Syphilis / epidemiology*