The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft recommendation that all pregnant women be screened for syphilis infection.

The recommendation, released Feb. 6, follows an evidence review of studies conducted since the task force’s most recent recommendation in 2009, which also called for universal screening of pregnant women.

“Despite consistent recommendations and legal mandates, screening for syphilis in pregnancy continues to be suboptimal in certain populations,” the evidence review noted. The rate of congenital syphilis in the United States nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016.

“Because the early stages of syphilis often don’t cause any symptoms, screening helps identify the infection in pregnant women who may not realize they have the disease,” task force member Chien-Wen Tseng, MD , of the University of Hawaii, said in a statement.

Treatment is most effective early in pregnancy, and can reduce the chances of congenital syphilis. The draft recommendation calls for pregnant women to be tested at the first prenatal visit or at delivery, if the woman has not received prenatal care.

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