During 1982-5 the 19S (IgM) fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (19S (IgM) FTA-ABS) test gave positive results in 19 children. The parental histories were analysed. As five of the children were adopted, 14 pregnancies were evaluated. Mothers of foreign origin and extramarital pregnancies were found to be over-represented. Of 13 women who attended for pregnancy checkup, three were not serologically screened for syphilis. In four the infection had developed late in the course of pregnancy. In at least four treatment had not been given or had been inadequate or too late. At least two had positive 19S (IgM) FTA-ABS test results that did not indicate congenital syphilis. The possibility of false positive 19S (IgM) FTA-ABS test results is pointed out. As the male sexual partners of four of the 14 mothers had presented elsewhere with early syphilis at the time of their partner's pregnancy, adequate contact tracing appears to be important to prevent congenital syphilis in future.
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