In Mogadishu, Somalia 223 women of childbearing age, including prostitutes, were tested for serum markers for syphilis by the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test and the Treponema pallidum haemagglutination assay (TPHA). Sera reactive in either of these tests were tested for IgM antibodies by solid phase haemadsorption assay (SPHA). Three per cent of sera from 67 pregnant women and none of those from 71 educated women gave positive results that were confirmed with the TPHA. In contrast, 58% of sera from 85 prostitutes were confirmed as being positive, 26% of which were SPHA positive, which indicated active syphilis. The proportion of TPHA positive sera increased with age among the prostitutes. As venereal syphilis is highly prevalent in prostitutes in Mogadishu, a strategy of intervention based on screening followed by treatment seems to be indispensable.
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