Expanded prenatal syphilis screening in Manitoba, Canada: a direct short-term cost-avoidance analysis in an outbreak context

Carl Boodman, Jared Bullard, Derek Riley Stein, Santina Lee, Vanessa Poliquin, Paul Van Caeseele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to provide a direct short-term cost-avoidance analysis of expanded three-time prenatal syphilis screening in the context of Manitoba's ongoing outbreak.

METHODS: A conservative modelling approach increased all financial costs of prenatal screening and minimized the direct costs of congenital syphilis treatment. The cost of syphilis screening was calculated using instrument, reagent and consumable costs as well as laboratory overhead and labour costs as documented by Cadham Provincial Laboratory. The short-term direct costs of treating congenital syphilis were calculated using hospital costs and doctor's billing fees. All costs were calculated in 2021 Canadian dollars. These numbers were applied to Manitoba's 2021 congenital syphilis statistics to provide a pragmatic cost-avoidance analysis.

RESULTS: The cost of applying three-time prenatal syphilis screening to all 16,800 yearly pregnancies in Manitoba equalled CAD $139,608.00 per year. The direct short-term cost of treating one uncomplicated case of congenital syphilis was $18,151.40. As 81 cases of congenital syphilis were treated in Manitoba in 2021, the short-term direct cost of treating congenital syphilis in Manitoba in 2021 was $1,470,263.40. Applying screening costs to the 125 adequately prevented cases of congenital syphilis in 2021, the screening program is associated with a cost-avoidance ratio of 16.25. If no prenatal syphilis program existed in Manitoba, an expanded screening program would be associated with a cost-avoidance ratio of 26.8.

CONCLUSION: Expanding prenatal syphilis screening is highly cost-avoidant in Manitoba. The 81 cases of congenital syphilis treated in Manitoba in 2021 highlight the need for novel community-based approaches to increase accessibility and engagement with prenatal care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCanadian journal of public health = Revue canadienne de sante publique
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2023


  • Pregnancy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Syphilis/diagnosis
  • Syphilis, Congenital/diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious/diagnosis
  • Manitoba/epidemiology
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Canada
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Mass Screening


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