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Syphilis screening and intervention in 500 000 pregnant women in Shenzhen, the People’s Republic of China
  1. J Q Cheng1,
  2. H Zhou2,
  3. F C Hong2,
  4. D Zhang3,
  5. Y J Zhang3,
  6. P Pan2,
  7. Y M Cai2
  1. 1Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shenzhen 518020, China
  2. 2Shenzhen Center for Chronic Diseases Prevention and Control, Shenzhen 518020, China
  3. 3Shenzhen Health Bureau, Shenzhen 518020, China
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Jinquan Cheng
 Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shenzhen 518020, China; cjinquan{at}


Objectives: To understand the disease epidemiology of syphilis in pregnant women, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the screening and intervention programme, for the purpose of controlling mother-to-child syphilis transmission in Shenzhen, in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Methods: At the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention (SZCDC), we used the toluidine red unheated serum test (TRUST) for the primary screening of pregnant women, and confirmed positive results with the Treponema pallidum particle agglutination (TPPA) test. We informed and treated those with positive results. For the women who chose to proceed with the pregnancy, we clinically screened their babies for congenital syphilis using the 19S-IgM FTA-Abs test.

Results: Between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005, we screened 477 656 pregnant women for syphilis, of whom 2208 (0.5%) tested positive. From 2003 to 2005, we collected epidemiological and treatment data from 2019 positive syphilis cases. Of these, 1855 (91.9%) of the pregnant women received treatment. Among the 1020 infants born to these women, 92 (9.0%) were confirmed to have congenital syphilis. If we exclude the mothers who had syphilis positive babies without undergoing prenatal screening, the project’s success rate for mother-to-child transmission intervention was 99.1%.

Conclusions: After four years of implementation, we proved the programme to be successful in preventing mother-to-child syphilis transmission. Further work should be done to ensure the earlier screening and treatment of pregnant women.

  • CDC, Centers for Disease Control
  • FTA-Abs test, fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test
  • PRC, People’s Republic of China
  • SEZ, Shenzhen Economic Zone
  • STDs, sexually transmitted diseases
  • SZCDC, Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • TPPA, Treponema pallidum particle agglutination
  • TRUST, toluidine red unheated serum test
  • syphilis
  • screening
  • pregnant women
  • congenital syphilis

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