Original Research

A clinical audit of maternal syphilis in a regional hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Onankoy A. Onyangunga, Thajasvarie Naicker, Jagidesa Moodley
Southern African Journal of Infectious Diseases | Vol 35, No 1 | a115 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajid.v35i1.115 | © 2020 Onankoy A. Onyangunga, Thajasvarie Naicker, Jagidesa Moodley | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 May 2019 | Published: 30 April 2020

About the author(s)

Onankoy A. Onyangunga, Optics and Imaging Centre, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Thajasvarie Naicker, Optics and Imaging Centre, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Jagidesa Moodley, Women’s Health and HIV Research Group, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Despite the availability of screening guidelines and effective treatment for maternal syphilis (MS), its prevalence remains high and is re-emerging in many parts of the world. This might be because of varying screening tests and algorithms for the laboratory diagnosis and treatment of syphilis. In addition, HIV co-infection may compromise the elimination of MS. The present study is a clinical audit of the prevalence of MS in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, using the ‘Traditional Algorithm’ screening.

Methods: This was a retrospective audit in which data on syphilis testing were obtained over a 1-year period (2016) at a large regional hospital in South Africa. The standard screening test at the study site was the non-treponemal antigen, rapid plasma reagin (RPR). Data on the prevalence of MS and comorbidity with HIV infection were analysed.

Results: There were 10 680 deliveries in the study period of which 118 were RPR reactive, giving an MS prevalence of 1.1%. MS occurred predominantly in the age groups < 18 and > 35 years (p = 0.001). The prevalence of HIV infection was 41.2% (n = 4451). Seventy-two (61.0%) had both HIV and MS infection, whilst 46 (39.0%) had discordant results (p = 0.001).

Conclusion: We report an increase in the prevalence of MS compared to previous South African National Antenatal Syphilis Surveillance studies. This may be because of the prozone effect caused by HIV infection on the sensitivity of the RPR. We propose a change in MS screening, using a Rapid DUO (Dual HIV and syphilis point of care test) and Reverse Algorithm for screening that could improve the sensitivity, detection and management of both diseases.


Keywords

Maternal syphilis; Congenital syphilis; HIV; RPR; Reverse algorithm.

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