Management of Adult Syphilis
Clinical Infectious Diseases Dec.2011 V.53 N.12 Suppl.3 S110-S128
Khalil G. Ghanem1 and Kimberly A. Workowski2,3
1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
2National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
There are several important unanswered key questions in the management of adult syphilis. A systematic literature review was conducted and tables of evidence were constructed to answer these important questions. A single dose of 2.4 million units of benzathine penicillin G remains the drug of choice for managing early syphilis. Enhanced antibiotic therapy has not been shown to improve treatment outcomes, regardless of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status. Although additional data on the efficacy of azithromycin in treating early syphilis have emerged, reported increases in the prevalence of a mutation associated with azithromycin resistance precludes a recommendation for its routine use. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination should be performed in all persons with serologic evidence of syphilis infection and neurologic symptoms. In those persons with early syphilis who do not achieve a ≥4-fold serologic decline in their rapid plasma reagin (RPR) titers 6–12 months after adequate therapy and those with late latent infection who do not achieve a similar decline within 12–24 months, CSF examination should be considered. Among HIV-infected persons, CSF examination among all those with asymptomatic late latent syphilis is not recommended owing to lack of evidence that demonstrates clinical benefit. HIV-infected persons with syphilis of any stages whose RPR titers are ≥1:32 and/or whose CD4 cell counts are <350 cells/mm3 may be at increased risk for asymptomatic neurosyphilis. If CSF pleocytosis is evident at initial CSF examination, these examinations should be repeated every 6 months until the cell count is normal. Several important questions regarding the management of syphilis remain unanswered and should be a priority for future research.
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