Cost-effectiveness of rapid point-of-care prenatal syphilis screening in sub-Saharan Africa

Chara E. Rydzak, Sue J. Goldie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Syphilis continues to be an important public health problem among pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa with prevalence rates as high as 17%. Pregnant women are a critical population to screen to prevent the devastating consequences of infection to their unborn children. Although screening and appropriate treatment of infected pregnant women can prevent fetal and maternal complications, traditional screening algorithms requiring multiple tests have proven to be difficult to implement in resource-poor settings. We assess the cost-effectiveness of on-site prenatal syphilis screening with newly available rapid point-of-care screening tests in sub-Saharan Africa. METHODS: Data from the literature were used to model the acquisition and subsequent natural history of syphilis in pregnant sub-Saharan African women over the course of their lifetime. We assessed the health and economic outcomes associated with screening strategies that differed by the initial test [rapid plasma reagin (RPR), immunochromographic strip (ICS)], need for confirmation with Treponema pallidum hemagglutination assay, and number of visits required. Model outcomes include adverse pregnancy outcomes (miscarriage, low birth weight, congenital syphilis, stillbirth, and neonatal death), life expectancy, lifetime costs (2004 US dollars), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. RESULTS: With no screening, for a cohort of 1000 women with an average of 6 pregnancies in their lifetime, there were 256 cases of congenital syphilis, 583 low birth weight infants, and 170 stillbirths or neonatal deaths. The most effective and least costly strategy was one-visit rapid testing with ICS, which averted 178 cases of congenital syphilis, 43 low birth weight infants, and 37 perinatal deaths, and saved $170,030 per 1000 women compared with no screening. The choice between ICS and RPR was most influenced by test kit, labor and supply costs, and test sensitivity. RPR was preferred when the ICS cost more than doubled or ICS test sensitivity fell below 88%. CONCLUSIONS: Universal prenatal syphilis screening using rapid point-of-care tests will improve both maternal and infant outcomes and is cost-effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-784
Number of pages10
JournalSexually Transmitted Diseases
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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