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Dr Marie Sartain
/ Categories: APhA News

CDC finds alarming trends in STIs, especially rise in syphilis cases

A new CDC report found that reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in U.S. patients continued to increase between 2020 and 2021.

While gonorrhea rates increased more than 4%, syphilis rates jumped by nearly 32% for all stages of the infection, with a total of 176,713 syphilis cases recorded in 2021. The last time cases were nearly this high was in 1950, when 217,558 cases were reported.

The report also found that cases of congenital syphilis, which happens when a baby is born with the infection after the mother passed it on during pregnancy, rose by 32%—from 2,148 to more than 2,800—with 220 stillbirths and infant deaths as a result.

Chlamydia rates increased nearly 4%, but—unlike gonorrhea and syphilis—still did not return to pre-pandemic levels. CDC said this raises concerns that screening continued to be affected by disruptions from COVID-19 during the second year of the pandemic.

CDC noted that while STIs are common in all groups and regions nationwide, some communities are particularly affected, such as bisexual and gay men and younger people. A disproportionate number of cases were diagnosed among American Indian/Alaska Native and Black/African American communities.

The report calls for expanded efforts with ubiquitous STI testing and treatment programs and in developing and approving more point-of-care rapid tests and self-tests as well as taking steps to advance scientific research in areas such as vaccines and post-exposure prophylaxis.

“For the first time in decades, we’re seeing promising new STI interventions on the horizon, but these alone will not solve this epidemic. It will take many of us working together to effectively use new and existing tools, to increase access to quality sexual health care services for more people, and to encourage ongoing innovation and prioritization of STI prevention and treatment in this country,” said Leandro Mena, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s division of STD prevention, in a CDC news release.

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