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MARION COUNTY, Ind. — From 2014 to 2016, researchers at the Regenstrief Institute looked at how many pregnant women in Marion County get screened for syphilis. What researchers found was there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Dr. Brian Dixon is the Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute.

“Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection,” Dr. Dixon explains, “it doesn’t just affect women, but we are concerned with pregnant women getting syphilis because syphilis can be transferred from mom to baby.”

That’s a special kind of syphilis called congenital syphilis. Dr. Dixon says that kind of syphilis is rising across the United States, hence why his team at the Regenstrief Institute decided to examine syphilis screening rates in Marion County.

Marion County offered Dr. Dixon and his team a valuable wealth of information, both on a wide variety of women and information from numerous public health organizations in central Indiana. Dr. Dixon and his fellow researchers found that between 2014 and 2016, 9 out of 10 women were screened as recommended by the Centers for disease Control.

“The bad news is that one out of 10 women are not screened,” says Dr. Dixon.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women be screened early on in their pregnancy, and at the end towards delivery. That’s especially for women at high-risk of contracting disease.

Regenstrief Institute’s study was “eye-opening” for public health, according to Dr. Dixon.

Dr. Dixon explains why this was eye-opening, “because really the only studies before ours were more than 15 years old and they only used data from Medicaid. Our study is really the first one to look at women with commercial insurance, women with Medicaid insurance, and other types of insurance, some who didn’t even have insurance, and look at whether they received screenings.”

Dr. Dixon says it’s incredibly important to be screened for syphilis because you can’t always assume you’re in the clear.

“You can have what we call latent syphilis,” Dr. Dixon explains, “so it’s possible for you to be infected with syphilis, to have mild symptoms or maybe not even know that you’re infected.”

And that’s a risk that you shouldn’t take. Dr. Dixon says it’s important to verify your status so that syphilis can be treated, even if it’s detected during pregnancy. If left untreated or undiagnosed, it can affect both the mother’s health, and the fetus’ development.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Brian Dixon below: