Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study: Prenatal screening in Haiti region cut syphilis by 75 percent

04.03.2003


Using a simple intervention, clinicians and health scientists working in Haiti successfully cut the incidence of congenital syphilis in a rural region of that impoverished nation by 75 percent -- meaning that far fewer babies will inherit the dangerous illness from infected mothers.

The scientists decentralized prenatal syphilis screening, shifting blood testing from a regional hospital out to 14 community dispensaries. Those dispensaries enjoy almost none of the amenities people in developed countries take for granted, including running water and electricity, and many are inaccessible by motor vehicle.

A report on the public health effort and its success appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.



"This study shows that even in a very rural, very poor area, an effective program for syphilis control in pregnant women is feasible," said Dr. Frieda M. T. Behets of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the chief authors. "Our experience shows that even in rudimentary clinics that lack running water and electricity, staff with minimal formal training can carry out serologic screening for syphilis and treat pregnant women successfully."

Behets is research associate professor of medicine and research assistant professor of epidemiology, respectively, at the UNC schools of medicine and public health. Other authors of the report are Dr. Daniel W. Fitzgerald, Dr. Johanne Preval, Lauren Schulwolf, Vidya Bommi and Pascal Chaillet, all of Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, Haiti. Fitzgerald, also a faculty member at Cornell University Medical College, was first author.

"This is very important for other developing countries with similar problems," Behets said. "In Madagascar, for example, where I have been working recently, I have been pleading for a similar program for more than five years, but I have been told repeatedly that this is not feasible. Madagascar has an important syphilis problem, and 8 to 12 percent of pregnant women have tested positive for it."

Before 1996, syphilis screening for pregnant women in Haiti’s Artibonite region -- about 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince -- entailed drawing blood at the dispensaries, transporting it to a central laboratory, returning the results and then treating women who showed signs of the sexually transmitted disease, she said. Unfortunately, that screening strategy failed, and congenital syphilis rates in the region were 550 per 100,000 live births.

The new study showed that by testing pregnant women at the dispensaries at small laboratories on site, health workers cut the congenital syphilis rate to an average of 137 cases per 100,000 live births since 1996. In 1998, the rate was only 95 cases per 100,000.

A laboratory for performing Rapid Plasma Reagin tests was installed at each dispensary. The cost, including training, was about $3,000 at each. No new construction was required, nor was new staff hired. Workers stored sun-generated electricity in 6-volt batteries for conversion to alternating current for a centrifuge and rotator. They stored reagents in propane-powered refrigerators.

During the study, blood samples tested on-site also were re-analyzed at the central laboratory to ensure the work was done correctly. Health workers gave patients penicillin the same day they were tested. While rates of syphilis in pregnant women remained the same over time there, follow-up data collection showed the marked drop in babies born infected.

"We are quite proud of this," said Behets, who spends most of her working time in developing nations with high levels of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. "It shows that it’s possible with minimal resources to bring medical discoveries to the poorest of the poor even in remote areas."

More than 90 percent of Haitian women in the Artibonite region deliver their babies at home unattended by medical personnel, she said.

German scientist August von Wasserman developed the simple blood test for syphilis in 1906. In 1928, British scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which can cure syphilis and prevent its transmission from mother to infant.

While abroad, Behets now operates out of Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo, but also conducts research and interventions in Tamatave and Mahajanga. As part of a multi-center study in the United States and Madagascar, she and colleagues are conducting a clinical trial to compare azithromycin with benzathine penicillin for treatment of early syphilis. They also study professional sex workers to learn ways of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases on the large island, which lies off the southeast coast of Africa.


###
Note: Behets can be reached (919) 966-7440 or via email at frieda_behets@unc.edu

School of Public Health Contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 966-7467
UNC News Services Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596

David Williamson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests
14.12.2017 | Aalto University

nachricht ASU scientists develop new, rapid pipeline for antimicrobials
14.12.2017 | Arizona State University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>