Newborn syphilis cases are surging at an alarming rate in the U.S., increasing it by tenfold in the past decade, an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can potentially cause complications such as damage to the heart, brain and other organs. At an early stage, syphilis can be cured effectively, but when left untreated it can even be life-threatening.

The bacteria causing syphilis gets transmitted through sores that typically appear on the genitals, rectum or mouth. A person can contract the infection through vaginal, anal or oral sex. The disease also can be transmitted from pregnant women to their babies, resulting in congenital syphilis.

The fetus that contracts syphilis is at increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Newborns with syphilis can develop severe health complications such as bone deformities, deafness, blindness, anemia, brain and nerve problems and meningitis.

"There were more than 3,700 babies born with syphilis in 2022, over 10 times the number reported in 2012. These increases reflect overall increases in syphilis among women of reproductive age," the CDC report said.

Health officials believe timely testing and adequate treatment during pregnancy could have prevented nine out of 10 newborn syphilis cases in 2022. Estimates show that 40% of people who had a baby with syphilis did not get prenatal care.

"Increasing rates of syphilis among babies reflect a failure of the U.S. health system. Testing for and treating syphilis during pregnancy more than 30 days before delivery can prevent this infection in newborns. Too many people are not being tested and treated early enough during pregnancy," they added.

A pregnant woman needs to be screened for syphilis during the first prenatal care visit, according to the CDC.

"You may not know you have syphilis, and that's why it's so important, particularly when pregnant, to get tested," said Dr. Debra Houry, the chief medical officer at the CDC.

If tested positive for syphilis during pregnancy, treatment should be started right away. The treatment involves the use of antibiotics appropriate for the stage of syphilis.