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Six Kiwi babies have died from syphilis passed on in pregnancy - and a testing loophole is putting families at risk.

New Zealand is in the midst of a worsening syphilis epidemic, with reported cases surging by more than 500 per cent in five years.

The sexually transmitted infection can pass from mother to unborn child in pregnancy and, if untreated, cause miscarriage, stillbirth, deafness and deformities.

Screening pregnant women for the disease is crucial - but a Herald investigation has found a weakness in the current testing regime meant infections weren't detected, despite parents doing everything right.

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