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Syphilis is infecting New Zealand women who then unknowingly pass the disease to their unborn baby in pregnancy.

That can have devastating consequences if untreated - the bacterial infection has caused six recent stillbirths, mostly among young Māori women.

Nicholas Jones investigates the highly preventable tragedies and finds gaps in the health system are putting families at risk.

The call came when Sarah was out of town. A nurse had results from a blood test taken at her first antenatal appointment.

"It's positive for syphilis," he told her. There wasn't much more information;

Health systems 'caught off-guard'


'You're looking for signs of abnormality'

'A blatant failure'

Test twice to save life

History repeats


'We were lucky'