UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Syphilis - Antenatal Screening

Surveillance of antenatal syphilis screening (SASS Study)

What did we do?

The SASS Study was funded by the UK NSC to provide evidence to improve current screening practice, by establishing what proportion of women identified at antenatal screening in 2010-2011 required treatment to reduce the risk of transmitting syphilis to their babies, how they were managed, and what happened to their babies.

We sought notification of all pregnancies in which women had a positive antenatal syphilis screening result, or were known to have active syphilis in pregnancy, in 2010 or 2011 in the UK; pregnancies were reported by named respondents in every maternity unit in the UK, using the established system of the National Study of HIV in Pregnancy and Childhood. We collected information on the referral and management of pregnant women who screened syphilis positive, and pregnancy outcome information for those who required treatment for syphilis in pregnancy. For infants born to positive women we also requested data from paediatricians about infant follow up and infection status.

What did we find out?

Over 1900 pregnancies were reported, and over 1400 were confirmed positive. Only a quarter of these women had newly diagnosed infections, but about 40% of women required treatment in pregnancy (mainly penicillin) - either because of concerns about whether previous treatment had been adequate, or because they had active infection in their current pregnancy. Five children born to women requiring treatment had confirmed congenital syphilis - generally these were pre-term infants or born to women who were diagnosed very close to delivery, but further information is being sought.

What do the results tell us?

The study data are currently being analysed. A report will be made to the NSC in 2015, and a paper is under development.

Main contact

Research team

  • Pat Tookey (PI)
  • Claire Townsend
  • Kate Francis


  • National Screening Committee's Infectious Diseases in Pregnancy Screening Programme

Project dates

  • 2010-2014