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Clinical and laboratory characteristics of ocular syphilis and neurosyphilis among individuals with and without HIV infection
  1. Dony Mathew1,2,
  2. Derrick Smit1,2
  1. 1 Department of Ophthalmology, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2 Division of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine and Surgical Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dony Mathew, Ophthalmology, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town 7505, South Africa; mathewdk1{at}


Background/aims In the era of increasing incidence of syphilis globally, ocular syphilis is re-emerging as an important cause of uveitis. The aim of this study was to determine the clinical and laboratory characteristics of ocular- and neurosyphilis among individuals with and without HIV infection.

Methods Retrospective analysis of patients diagnosed with ocular syphilis presenting to Tygerberg Hospital, South Africa, over a 5-year period ending December 2018.

Results Two-hundred and fifteen eyes of 146 patients were included. HIV coinfection was present in 52.1% of the patients, with 23.7% of these patients being newly diagnosed on presentation. The median age was 36.5±9.8 years. Bilateral involvement occurred in 47.3%, with 68.1% of these patients being HIV positive. The most frequent form of intraocular inflammation was posterior uveitis (40.9%), followed by panuveitis (38.1%), both of which were more predominant in HIV-positive eyes. Seventy-four per cent of all eyes had a visual acuity ≤20/50 and 40% <20/200 at presentation. A lumbar puncture was performed in 113 patients (77.4%). Sixteen patients had confirmed neurosyphilis and 27 probable neurosyphilis according to the UpToDate algorithms.

Conclusion This study included the largest number of ocular syphilis cases with the largest proportion of HIV infection to date. Forty-three of 146 patients (37.0%) had neurosyphilis. HIV status must be determined in all patients with ocular syphilis since almost ¼ of patients were newly diagnosed with HIV infection by doing so.

  • inflammation
  • infection

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  • Contributors DM was responsible for the review of literature, collection and analysis of data and preparation of the article as per journal’s requirements. DS was responsible for conceptualisation of the research and editing of the final article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Protocols and data are available.

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