Syphilis medical therapy

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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

Penicillin G, administered parenterally, is the preferred drug for treating all stages of syphilis. If the patient is allergic, then Tetracycline or doxycycline may also be used. During pregnancy, parenteral penicillin G is the only therapy with documented efficacy for syphilis. The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is an acute adverse febrile reaction that may occur after initiation of therapy for syphilis.

Medical Therapy

  • The preparation used (i.e., benzathine, aqueous procaine, or aqueous crystalline), the dosage, and the length of treatment depend on the stage and clinical manifestations of the disease.
  • Treatment for longer duration is required in patients with late latent, latent with unknown duration and tertiary syphilis.
  • Selection of the appropriate penicillin preparation is important, because T. pallidum can reside in sequestered sites (e.g., the CNS and aqueous humor) that are poorly accessed by some forms of penicillin.
  • Combinations of benzathine penicillin, procaine penicillin, and oral penicillin preparations are not considered appropriate for the treatment of syphilis.[2]

Pharmacotherapy

Syphilis Among non-HIV-Infected Persons[3]
Primary and Secondary Syphilis
Latent Syphilis
Early Latent Syphilis:
Late Latent Syphilis or Latent Syphilis of Unknown Duration:
  • Preferred regimen: Benzathine penicillin G 7.2 MU total, administered as 3 doses of 2.4 MU IM each at 1 week intervals
  • Pediatric regimen: Benzathine penicillin G 50,000 U/kg IM (Maximum, 2.4 MU), administered as 3 doses at 1 week intervals (total 150,000 U/kg up to the adult total dose of 7.2 MU)
Tertiary Syphilis
  • Preferred regimen: Benzathine penicillin G 7.2 MU total, administered as 3 doses of 2.4 MU IM each at 1 week intervals
Ocular syphilis
Pathogen-directed antimicrobial therapy:[4]
Syphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons
Primary and Secondary Syphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons
Latent Syphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons
Early latent:
Late latent:
Neurosyphilis Among HIV-Infected Persons
Syphilis During Pregnancy
  • Pregnant women should be treated with the penicillin regimen appropriate for their stage of infection.
  • Parenteral penicillin G is the only therapy with documented efficacy for syphilis. Pregnant women with syphilis in any stage who report penicillin allergy should be desensitized and treated with penicillin
  • The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is an acute febrile reaction.
  • Frequently accompanied by headache, myalgia, fever, and other symptoms that usually occur within the first 24 hours after the initiation of any therapy for syphilis.
  • Patients should be informed about this possible adverse reaction.
  • The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction occurs most frequently among patients who have early syphilis, presumably because bacterial burdens are higher during these stages.
  • Antipyretics can be used to manage symptoms, but they have not been proven to prevent this reaction.
  • The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction might induce early labor or cause fetal distress in pregnant women, but this should not prevent or delay therapy.
Congenital Syphilis in Neonates
Condition 1: Infants with proven or highly probable disease and (1) an abnormal physical examination that is consistent with congenital syphilis;(2)a serum quantitative nontreponemal serologic titer that is fourfold higher than the mother's titer; or (3)a positive darkfield test of body fluid(s).
  • Preferred regimen (1): Aqueous crystalline penicillin G 100,000-150,000 U/kg/day, administered as 50,000 U/kg/dose IV q12h during the first 7 days of life and q8h thereafter for a total of 10 days
  • Preferred regimen (2): Procaine penicillin G 50,000 U/kg/dose IM q24h for 10 days
  • Note: If more than 1 day of therapy is missed, the entire course should be restarted. Data are insufficient regarding the use of other antimicrobial agents (e.g., ampicillin). When possible, a full 10-day course of penicillin is preferred, even if ampicillin was initially provided for possible sepsis. The use of agents other than penicillin requires close serologic follow-up to assess adequacy of therapy. In all other situations, the maternal history of infection with T. pallidum and treatment for syphilis must be considered when evaluating and treating the infant.
Condition 2: Infants who have a normal physical examination and a serum quantitative nontreponemal serologic titer the same or less than fourfold the maternal titer and the (1) mother was not treated, inadequately treated, or has no documentation of having received treatment; (2) mother was treated with erythromycin or another non-penicillin regimen; or (3) mother received treatment <4 weeks before delivery.
  • Preferred regimen (1): Aqueous crystalline penicillin G 100,000-150,000 U/kg/day, administered as 50,000 U/kg/dose IV q12h during the first 7 days of life and q8h thereafter for a total of 10 days
  • Preferred regimen (2): Procaine penicillin G 50,000 U/kg/dose IM q24h for 10 days
  • Preferred regimen (3): Benzathine penicillin G 50,000 U/kg/dose IM single dose
  • Note: If the mother has untreated early syphilis at delivery, 10 days of parenteral therapy can be considered
Condition 3: Infants who have a normal physical examination and a serum quantitative nontreponemal serologic titer the same or less than fourfold the maternal titer and the (1) mother was treated during pregnancy, treatment was appropriate for the stage of infection, and treatment was administered >4 weeks before delivery; and (2) mother has no evidence of reinfection or relapse.
Condition 4: Infants who have a normal physical examination and a serum quantitative nontreponemal serologic titer the same or less than fourfold the maternal titer and the (1) mother's treatment was adequate before pregnancy; and (2) mother's nontreponemal serologic titer remained low and stable before and during pregnancy and at delivery (VDRL <1:2; RPR <1:4).
  • No treatment is required
  • Benzathine penicillin G 50,000 U/kg IM single dose might be considered, particularly if follow-up is uncertain.
Congenital Syphilis in infants and children

Approach to Diagnosis and Management of Syphilis

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Positive syphilis screening test
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Perform treponemal-specific test
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Positive treponemal-specific test
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Negative treponemal-specific test
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Establish stage of infection; obtain quantitative nontreponemal test titres
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Primary syphilis suspected
 
False-positive test result suspected
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Signs or symptoms of primary or secondary syphilis
 
 
No clinical signs or symptoms (latent syphilis)
 
 
 
Signs or symptoms of tertiary (late) syphilis, or patient is HIC positive or otherwise immunocompromised
 
 
 
Obtain quantitative nontreponemal test titres
 
Consider other causes
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Early latent syphilis
 
Late latent syphilis
 
Lumbar puncture
 
 
 
Penicillin G benzazthine, 2.4 million units IM (single dose)*
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Penicillin G benzazthine, 2.4 million units IM (single dose)*
 
 
 
Penicillin G benzazthine, 2.4 million units IM once a week for 3 weeks (three doses)**
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Signs, symptoms, or CSF findings consistent with neurosyphilis
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yes
 
 
 
 
 
No
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
No penicillin allergy
 
Penicillin allergy
 
 
 
Unvolve appropriate subspecialists. Penicillin G benzazthine, 2.4 million units IM once a week for 3 weeks (three doses)**
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Desensitization
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Aqueous crystalline penicillin G, 3 to 4 million units IV every 4 hours for 10 to 14 days; or penicillin G procaine, 2.4 million units once daily, plus 500 mg of probenecid orally four times daily for 10 to 14 days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

References

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/syphilis.htm Accessed on September 26, 2016
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5409a1.htm
  3. Workowski KA, Bolan GA (2015). "Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015". MMWR. Recommendations and Reports : Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Recommendations and Reports / Centers for Disease Control. 64 (RR-03): 1–137. PMID 26042815.
  4. Bennett, John (2015). Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's principles and practice of infectious diseases. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier/Saunders. ISBN 978-1455748013.
  5. 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.
  6. Yang CJ, Lee NY, Chen TC, Lin YH, Liang SH, Lu PL; et al. (2014). "One dose versus three weekly doses of benzathine penicillin G for patients co-infected with HIV and early syphilis: a multicenter, prospective observational study". PLoS One. 9 (10): e109667. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109667. PMC 4186862. PMID 25286091.

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