Resurgence and spread of syphilis in China is a rapidly increasing epidemic

CHAPEL HILL -- The resurgence and spread in China of syphilis, an infection eliminated there from 1960 to 1980, represents a rapidly increasing pidemic calling for urgent intervention, ccording to authors of a new report documenting rising infection rates.

"Syphilis has returned to China with a vengeance. The data demonstrates a syphilis epidemic of such scope and magnitude that it will require terrific effort to intervene," said Dr. Myron S. Cohen, the J. Herbert Bate distinguished professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and public health, and director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Cohen and co-authors from China collected and assessed data from China's national sexually transmitted disease (STD) surveillance system and sentinel site network. The total incidence of syphilis in all of China's counties increased from less than 0.2 cases per 100,000 people in 1993 to 6.5 cases per 100,000 in 1999, the study shows. Of the three categories of disease - primary, secondary and tertiary - the first two represented 5.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2005. This latter incidence is substantially higher than in most developed countries, including the U.S., which reported 2.7 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2004, the researchers note.

The results appear in the Jan. 13, 2007 issue of the journal Lancet. The research was supported by special funding from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty-Ellison Fellowship and the UNC Center for AIDS Research.

Also alarming is the rate of congenital syphilis, Cohen said, which has increased from 0.01 cases per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 19.68 cases in 2005 - an average yearly rise of 71.9 percent. Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passes the infection to her baby in the womb. Many cases result in miscarriage or stillbirth, and surviving babies may have

Contact: Stephanie Crayton
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

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