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Taking cues from COVID-19, experts call for modernized syphilis screening

Arizona currently faces an outbreak of syphilis among females and newborns.

This week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reiterated its 2016 call to screen at-risk persons with or without symptoms.

But some say it’s time to modernize the process.

The U.S. approach to syphilis screening is a century old, and response to the task force’s guidelines over the past six years has been lackluster.

So says an editorial in the journal JAMA, which also calls for modernizing the process with mobile testing centers or at-home testing and sample-collection kits.

The goal is to reach younger people, who are more likely to contract syphilis but less likely to use healthcare.

Since 2001, infection rates nationally have ramped up to epidemic levels in heterosexual men and women, and in men who have sex with men.

In Arizona, cases of mothers passing the disease to their babies have risen almost 450% since 2015. 

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.