Congenital syphilis

Congenital syphilis is an infection caused by Treponema pallidum that is acquired by a pregnant woman, and transmitted to the foetus via the placenta. Risk of transmission is currently sitting at between 60 and 80 per cent. The solution is penicillin. Children can be completely asymptomatic.

Syphilis in children is split into two types – early congenital syphilis (appears up to three months old) and late congenital syphilis (after two years old).

Early symptoms in the baby

  • Skin lesions/ulcers
  • Failure to thrive
  • Bloody nasal discharge
  • Meningitis
  • Seizures
  • Intellectual disability
  • Swollen, hard lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
  • Enlarged liver and spleen (at the same time – hepatosplenomegaly)
  • Fissures around the mouth
  • Eye inflammation
  • Hydrocephalus (fluid accumulating around the brain)
  • Osteochondritis (cracks in joint cartilage or bone)
  • Pseudoparalysis
  • Rash on palms and soles

Later signs may include: 

  • Soft, non-cancerous growths (gummatous ulcers)
  • Bone lesions (periosteal lesions)
  • Muscular weakness due to nerve damage
  • Emaciation
  • Eye degeneration/atrophy
  • Chronic eye inflammation
  • Deafness
  • Dental deformities

See the main article on syphilis.