Syphilis management among HIV-infected persons

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aysha Aslam, M.B.B.S[2]; Nate Michalak, B.A.

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Overview

Unusual serologic responses may be observed among HIV-infected persons who have syphilis. Both treponemal and nontreponemal serologic tests for syphilis should be interpreted in the usual manner for most patients who are coinfected with T. pallidum and HIV. HIV-positive patients should be treated with syphilis regimens recommended for HIV-negative patients. Careful follow-up after therapy is essential. HIV-positive patients who have early syphilis might be at increased risk for neurologic complications and may have higher rates of serologic treatment failure with currently recommended regimens. All HIV-infected persons with syphilis and neurologic symptoms should undergo immediate CSF examination.

Management among HIV Infected Persons

Diagnostic Considerations

  • Although they are uncommon, unusual serologic responses have been observed among HIV-infected persons who have syphilis. Most reports have involved serologic titers that were higher than expected, but false-negative serologic test results and delayed appearance of seroreactivity also have been reported.[1] Regardless, both treponemal and nontreponemal serologic tests for syphilis can be interpreted in the usual manner for most patients who are coinfected with T. pallidum and HIV.[2]
  • When clinical findings are suggestive of syphilis but serologic tests are nonreactive or their interpretation is unclear, alternative tests (e.g., biopsy of a lesion, darkfield examination, and PCR of lesion material) might be useful for diagnosis.
  • Neurosyphilis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of neurologic disease in HIV-infected persons.

Treatment

  • Compared with HIV-negative patients, HIV-positive patients who have early syphilis might be at increased risk for neurologic complications and may have higher rates of serologic treatment failure with currently recommended regimens.[3] The magnitude of these risks is not defined precisely, but is likely small.[2]
  • No treatment regimens for syphilis have been demonstrated to be more effective in preventing neurosyphilis in HIV-infected patients than the syphilis regimens recommended for HIV-negative patients.[4]
  • Careful follow-up after therapy is essential.

Primary and Secondary Syphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons

Recommended regimen

Other Management Considerations

Special Considerations

  • The use of alternatives to penicillin has not been well studied in HIV-infected patients. These therapies should be used only in conjunction with close serologic and clinical follow-up.

Follow-Up

  • HIV-infected persons should be evaluated clinical and serologically for treatment failure at 3, 6, 9, 12, and 24 months after therapy.
  • HIV-infected persons who meet the criteria for treatment failure (i.e., signs or symptoms that persist or recur or persons who have a sustained fourfold increase in nontreponemal test titer) should be managed in the same manner as HIV-negative patients (i.e., a CSF examination and retreatment).

Latent Syphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons

Treatment

  • HIV-infected persons with latent syphilis should be treated according to the stage-specific recommendations for HIV-negative persons.

Other Management Considerations

Special Considerations

  • The efficacy of alternative non-penicillin regimens in HIV-infected persons has not been well studied.[2]
  • These therapies should be used only in conjunction with close serologic and clinical follow-up.
  • Limited clinical studies, along with biologic and pharmacologic evidence, suggest that ceftriaxone might be effective.[11][12] However, the optimal dose and duration of ceftriaxone therapy have not been defined.

Follow-Up

Neurosyphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons

Treatment

HIV-infected patients with neurosyphilis should be treated according to the recommendations for HIV-negative patients with neurosyphilis.

Special Considerations

  • HIV-infected, penicillin-allergic patients who have neurosyphilis should be managed according to the recommendations for penicillin-allergic, HIV-negative patients with neurosyphilis.
  • Several small observational studies conducted in HIV-infected patients with neurosyphilis suggest that ceftriaxone 1-2 g IV daily for 10-14 days might be effective as an alternate agent.[11][12][10]

Follow-up

  • Follow-up CSF examinations also can be used to gauge response after therapy.
  • Limited data suggest that changes in CSF parameters might occur more slowly in HIV-infected patients, especially those with more advanced immunosuppression.[13][9]
  • If the cell count has not decreased after 6 months or if the CSF is not normal after 2 years, retreatment should be considered.

References

  1. Kingston AA, Vujevich J, Shapiro M, Hivnor CM, Jukic DM, Junkins-Hopkins JM et al. (2005) Seronegative secondary syphilis in 2 patients coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus. Arch Dermatol 141 (4):431-3. DOI:10.1001/archderm.141.4.431 PMID: 15837859
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 http://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/references.htm#424 Accessed on September 27, 2016
  3. "Symptomatic Early Neurosyphilis Among HIV-Positive Men Who Have Sex with Men --- Four Cities, United States, January 2002--June 2004". Retrieved 2012-12-19.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rolfs RT, Joesoef MR, Hendershot EF, Rompalo AM, Augenbraun MH, Chiu M et al. (1997) A randomized trial of enhanced therapy for early syphilis in patients with and without human immunodeficiency virus infection. The Syphilis and HIV Study Group. N Engl J Med 337 (5):307-14. DOI:10.1056/NEJM199707313370504 PMID: 9235493
  5. 5.0 5.1 Marra CM, Maxwell CL, Smith SL, Lukehart SA, Rompalo AM, Eaton M et al. (2004) Cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities in patients with syphilis: association with clinical and laboratory features. J Infect Dis 189 (3):369-76. DOI:10.1086/381227 PMID: 14745693
  6. 6.0 6.1 Libois A, De Wit S, Poll B, Garcia F, Florence E, Del Rio A et al. (2007) HIV and syphilis: when to perform a lumbar puncture. Sex Transm Dis 34 (3):141-4. DOI:10.1097/01.olq.0000230481.28936.e5 PMID: 16865051
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ghanem KG, Moore RD, Rompalo AM, Erbelding EJ, Zenilman JM, Gebo KA (2009) Lumbar puncture in HIV-infected patients with syphilis and no neurologic symptoms. Clin Infect Dis 48 (6):816-21. DOI:10.1086/597096 PMID: 19187028
  8. Marra CM, Maxwell CL, Tantalo LC, Sahi SK, Lukehart SA (2008) Normalization of serum rapid plasma reagin titer predicts normalization of cerebrospinal fluid and clinical abnormalities after treatment of neurosyphilis. Clin Infect Dis 47 (7):893-9. DOI:10.1086/591534 PMID: 18715154
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ghanem KG, Moore RD, Rompalo AM, Erbelding EJ, Zenilman JM, Gebo KA (2008) Neurosyphilis in a clinical cohort of HIV-1-infected patients. AIDS 22 (10):1145-51. DOI:10.1097/QAD.0b013e32830184df PMID: 18525260
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ghanem KG, Moore RD, Rompalo AM, Erbelding EJ, Zenilman JM, Gebo KA (2008) Antiretroviral therapy is associated with reduced serologic failure rates for syphilis among HIV-infected patients. Clin Infect Dis 47 (2):258-65. DOI:10.1086/589295 PMID: 18532887
  11. 11.0 11.1 Dowell ME, Ross PG, Musher DM, Cate TR, Baughn RE (1992) Response of latent syphilis or neurosyphilis to ceftriaxone therapy in persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus. Am J Med 93 (5):481-8. PMID: 1442850
  12. 12.0 12.1 Smith NH, Musher DM, Huang DB, Rodriguez PS, Dowell ME, Ace W et al. (2004) Response of HIV-infected patients with asymptomatic syphilis to intensive intramuscular therapy with ceftriaxone or procaine penicillin. Int J STD AIDS 15 (5):328-32. DOI:10.1258/095646204323012823 PMID: 15117503
  13. Marra CM, Maxwell CL, Tantalo L, Eaton M, Rompalo AM, Raines C et al. (2004) Normalization of cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities after neurosyphilis therapy: does HIV status matter? Clin Infect Dis 38 (7):1001-6. DOI:10.1086/382532 PMID: 15034833

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