Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis: Is it a reality in Nigeria by 2020?

Scand J Public Health. 2018 Dec;46(8):794-797. doi: 10.1177/1403494817744988. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Background: Congenital syphilis is a global health problem, yet it has received little attention in recent years. Despite cost-effective syphilis screening and treatment, it continues to contribute hugely to perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Aims: To determine the prevalence and treatment coverage trend for syphilis among pregnant women in the national prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme in Nigeria and to evaluate progress towards the elimination of congenital syphilis in the country.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of validated national health sector performance data on pregnant women attending antenatal care at prevention of mother-to-child transmission clinics from 2013 to 2016 in Nigeria.

Results: The proportion of new antenatal care attendees who annually received serological testing for syphilis increased from 12.2% in 2013 to 16.3% in 2016 (p-trend<0.0001). Although the prevalence of maternal syphilis decreased from 3.2% in 2013 to 1.4% in 2016 (p-trend<0.0001), the syphilis treatment coverage during pregnancy has decreased from 71.3% in 2013 to 54.9% in 2016 (p-trend<0.0001).

Conclusions: Maternal syphilis screening and treatment in Nigeria are inadequate to meet the elimination aspirations. A rapid scale-up of antenatal care syphilis screening and treatment are crucial to averting an epidemic in Nigeria by 2020.

Keywords: Congenital syphilis; antenatal care; elimination of syphilis; mother-to-child transmission; pregnancy; syphilis screening; syphilis treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Eradication*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Prenatal Care
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syphilis, Congenital / epidemiology
  • Syphilis, Congenital / prevention & control*
  • Syphilis, Congenital / transmission*