Syphilis is an ulcerative sexually transmitted genital infection caused by Treponema pallidum, which is a member of the order Spirochaetales, family Spirochaetaceae, and genus Treponema. The incidence rate of Syphilis has been steadily rising since 2000; from 2.1 cases per 100,000 population to up to 7.5 cases per 100,000 population in 2014-2015 (the highest rate since 1994). In the state of West Virginia, we have witnessed an increase in the number of cases from 0.5 cases per 100,000 population in 2011, to 5.9 cases per 100,000 population in 2015. Systemic symptoms can include cardiovascular and neurological manifestations. We report to your attention four cases of syphilis mainly with neurological and ocular manifestations.
We report a series of four cases of neurosyphilis we encountered between 2013 and 2016. Main presentation of all four cases was ocular; primarily redness and photophobia. Diagnosis was confirmed by standard ophthalmological examination with positive initial rapid plasma regain titers (RPR) and fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption testing (FTA-ABS). The cerebrospinal fluid venereal disease research laboratory test (CSF-VDRL) was positive in two of the four cases (in which lumbar puncture was performed). Two of the four cases suffered from an overt immunodeficiency (HIV and laryngeal cancer on chemotherapy) and subjects of all four cases confessed to high risk sexual behaviors. All four cases were managed with continuous infusions of Penicillin G potassium 24 million International Units for 14 days with variable response.
Response to treatment was variable in that initial complete resolution was achieved in one patient (Case #3), another (Case #1) was retreated in 6 months due to rising RPR titers on follow up with subsequent improvement. Two patients were lost to follow up (Case #2 and #4).
Sir William Osler reportedly said:” He who knows syphilis knows medicine”. The steady rise in the incidence of Syphilis warrants that health care providers consider such a diagnosis in the evaluation of suggestive neurological and ocular manifestations in predisposed patients. We also stress on the importance of follow up to detect failure of initial treatment.
J. Kilgore, None
K. Willenburg, None