Syphilis has become a serious health issue (again) in Latin American countries, with 3 million cases. Every year 330,000 pregnant women with syphilis receive no treatment, resulting in 110,000 children born with congenital syphilis and a similar number of miscarriages.
Commercial kits for early syphilis detection are too expensive to use in a systematic screening of all pregnancies in Latin American countries where, in some areas, there are five new cases daily. The proteins needed for the test come from the bacterium that causes syphilis. And reducing the price of the tests requires producing high volumes of these proteins.