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Clinical and laboratory characteristics of ocular syphilis, co-infection, and therapy response

Authors Sahin O, Ziaei A

Received 13 August 2015

Accepted for publication 20 October 2015

Published 23 December 2015 Volume 2016:10 Pages 13—28

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OPTH.S94376

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Pelin Ozyol

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser


Ozlem Sahin,1 Alireza Ziaei1–3

1Department of Ophthalmology/Uveitis, Dunya Goz Hospital, Ankara, Turkey; 2Department of Ophthalmology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA; 3Department of Ophthalmology, Dunya Eye Hospital Ltd, Ankara, Turkey

Purpose: To describe the clinical presentation of patients diagnosed with presumed latent ocular syphilis and congenital ocular syphilis at tertiary referral center in Turkey, and to compare the clinical findings with patients described in other studies, specifically focusing on demographics and co-infections.
Methods: This is a retrospective study reviewing the medical records of patients diagnosed with ocular inflammation between January 2012 and June 2014 at a tertiary referral center in Turkey. Ocular syphilis was diagnosed on the basis of non-treponemal and treponemal antibody tests, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis. All the patients diagnosed with ocular syphilis were tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Toxoplasma gondii, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes.
Results: A total of 1,115 patients were evaluated between January 2012 and June 2014, and 12 patients (1.07%) were diagnosed with ocular syphilis based on the inclusion criteria. None of the patients were seropositive for HIV. Two patients were seropositive for T. gondii-specific IgG. Clinical presentations include non-necrotizing anterior scleritis, non-necrotizing sclerokeratitis, anterior uveitis, intermediate uveitis, posterior uveitis, panuveitis, and optic neuritis. All of the patients showed clinical improvement in the level of ocular inflammation with intravenous penicillin 24 million U/day for 10 days. Three patients received additional oral methotrexate as an adjunctive therapy. Two cases received low-dose trimethoprim–sulfamethoxazole.
Conclusion: Ocular syphilis is an uncommon cause of ocular inflammation in HIV-negative patients. Central retinochoroiditis is the most common ocular manifestation, and it is the most common cause of visual impairment. Ocular syphilis might present associated with co-infections such as T. gondii in developing countries. Oral methotrexate might be beneficial as an adjunctive therapy for ocular syphilis in resolving the residual intraocular inflammation and cystoid macular edema after specific therapy with intravenous penicillin.

Keywords: ocular syphilis, scleritis, uveitis, methotrexate, human immunodeficiency virus, T. gondii

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