LWB Community Blog

Wisdom Wednesday: What is Congenital Syphilis?

Although we see babies with all types of health problems, until recently it has been relatively rare for us to take in a baby with congenital syphilis. However, in the past year we have seen multiple cases of this medical need and wanted to explain what it is and how it is treated in the babies in our care.


Syphilis, of course, is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum and is on the rise in many countries around the world. If a woman contracts syphilis during her pregnancy, then there is a 60-80% chance she will pass the disease to her unborn child if she does not receive treatment. Sadly, untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in infant death in up to 40 percent of cases.

Baby Amanda, now three months old, came to us with a severe abdominal obstruction shortly after she was born.  However, doctors quickly discovered she was born with congenital syphilis as well. We are so thankful that Amanda came into our care so quickly, as she was then able to immediately be started on penicillin.

While syphilis sounds like a really scary diagnosis for a newborn, it is actually quite easy to cure in its earliest stages, especially for those babies who are infected as they come through the birth canal.  Babies receive 10-14 days of antibiotic treatment, and then have follow-up blood work done for one year to make sure the titers are still clear.

Amanda is now doing very well at our Starbridge Healing Home where she is still in need of a few sponsors.  There is still a great deal of stigma and misinformation in China about this medical need, so we know it could prove very difficult to find a foster family for Amanda once she is ready to graduate from the healing home.  For now, she is getting lots of love and good nutrition, and of course is charming everyone who meets her.

Amanda 2.14

With syphilis on the rise throughout China, it’s quite likely that we will see more babies born with this condition in the future.  However, we want people to know that it can be successfully treated with penicillin when diagnosed, and beautiful Amanda with her wise eyes will hopefully be quickly chosen by a family for adoption once her file is prepared.


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  • I am really touched by Amanda’s story. My son, who we adopted from Vietnam, was also diagnosed with syphilis. We’ve long since gotten over the fear about it and he is a healthy, gorgeous honor roll student!

    I’m interested to know more–if Amanda is in need of foster parents. Her face has melted my heart!

    Recently, I also reached out to Any Eldridge, CEO, about my new adoption book scheduled for release this July. So, I’m involved with the adoption community, write about adoption and have lots of experience with my son and a daughter from China.

    Please let me know her status!

    Many thanks and God’s blessings,

    Christine Rhyner