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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 29-31 Table of Contents   

Panuveitis as a manifestation of ocular syphilis leading to HIV diagnosis

1 LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India
2 Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India

Date of Web Publication18-Feb-2010

Correspondence Address:
Jay Kumar Chhablani
Smt. Kanuri Santhamma Retina Vitreous Centre, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Kallam Anji Reddy Campus, L V Prasad Marg, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad - 500 034, Andhra Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-620X.60019

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Syphilis is a rare cause of panuveitis. We present the case of a 33-year-old man who presented with diminution of vision of three months duration in his left eye (OS), without any other systemic illness. Ophthalmic examination showed features of pauveitis with dense vitreous exudates, disc pallor and sheathing of vessels on fundoscopy. A diagnosis of probable endogenous endophthalmitis was made and vitreous tap performed. Vitreous biopsy showed no growth of fungus or bacteria. Rapid plasma reagin (RPR) and Treponema pallidum hemagglutination (TPHA) test were positive. Enzyme-Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA) and Western Blot test were then performed, which revealed concurrent HIV infection. The patient improved dramatically with intravenous penicillin therapy. HIV positive patients may present with panuveitis secondary to ocular syphilis, as the only presenting feature in HIV positive patient in absence of any other systemic features.

Keywords: HIV, ocular syphilis in HIV, syphilitic panuveitis in HIV

How to cite this article:
Chhablani JK, Biswas J, Sudharshan S. Panuveitis as a manifestation of ocular syphilis leading to HIV diagnosis. Oman J Ophthalmol 2010;3:29-31

How to cite this URL:
Chhablani JK, Biswas J, Sudharshan S. Panuveitis as a manifestation of ocular syphilis leading to HIV diagnosis. Oman J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2010 [cited 2023 Mar 31];3:29-31. Available from: https://www.ojoonline.org/text.asp?2010/3/1/29/60019

   Introduction Top

Manifestations of ocular syphilis in HIV-infected patients include iridocyclitis, papillitis, optic perineuritis, retrobulbar opic neuritis, branch retinal vein occlusion, chorioretinitis, periphlebitis, serous retinal detachment. [1] Syphilis is an uncommon cause of uveitis in HIV infected patients. [2] We report a patient primarily diagnosed as syphilitic uveitis, who on further investigations was found to be HIV positive. To our knowledge, there are no previous reports where syphilitic panuveitis led to diagnosis of HIV infection.

   Case Report Top

A 33-year-old male presented with complaints of diminution of vision and floaters in the left eye (OS) for last three months with no other systemic complaints. The patient denied history of multiple sex partners and blood transfusion.

On examination his best corrected visual acuity was 6/6; N6 in the right eye (OD) and hand movements in (OS). Ocular examination was unremarkable OD. Examination OS showed fine pigmented keratic precipitates, aqueous cells and flare grade 1, sluggishly reacting pupil with pigments on the lens. Intraocular pressure (IOP) with applanation tonometry was 10 mmHg both eyes (OU). Fundus examination OS showed hazy view due to dense vitreous exudates with disc pallor and sclerosed vessel [Figure 1]. Systemic examination was unremarkable. Hematological investigations showed Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) of 30 mm first hour, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for toxoplasma, herpes simplex virus, herpes zoster virus, and cytomegalovirus. Serum Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) and Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) parameters were within normal limits. HLA- B5 was not detected.

A clinical diagnosis of panuveitis (anterior uveitis, vitritis, retinal vasculitis) secondary to endogenous endophthalmitis or sarcoidosis or Behcet's disease was done. Vitreous tap was done, which showed no growth of any bacteria or any fungus. At this stage extensive laboratory investigations were ordered. RPR (1:32) and TPHA (1:640) were positive. ELISA and Western Blot test for HIV were also positive, with a CD4 count of 187 cells/µl (normal 383-1347 cells/µl). On repeated questioning, the patient gave a history of multiple sexual partners. He was administered intravenous penicillin G 24 million units/day for 14 days, and intramuscular benzathine penicillin 2.4 million units weekly for three weeks. He was also started on Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment (HAART) by the infectious disease specialist.

At the one month follow-up visit, visual acuity OS improved to 6/60; N18. Examination OS revealed a quiet eye with grade one vitreous haze. At his last follow-up visit at two years (24 months) after onset of symptoms), visual acuity OS was 6/60; N36. Anterior segment examination was unremarkable except sluggishly reacting pupil and early posterior subcapsular cataract. Fundus examination showed disc pallor, sclerosed vessels with attached retina [Figure 2]. The patient was advised regular follow-up and continued antiretroviral treatment.

   Discussion Top

Ocular syphilis is a rare manifestation of syphilis (6-9%) [3] and was reported to have a prevalence rate of 0.6% in HIV-infected patients. [4] The increasing incidence (9%) in post-HAART era indicates that the immunological reconstitution after HAART is not protective. [5] Ocular syphilis is more rapidly progressive and more extensive in HIV infected patients in comparison to HIV uninfected patients. [6] It is usually bilateral and more common in males. [4]

Panuveitis as the only presentation of ocular syphilis, leading to diagnosis of HIV, is rare. [1],[2] As syphilis is the most common bacterial eye infection in HIV-positive patients, all HIV- positive patients with uveitis should be tested for syphilis and vice versa. [4] Specific treponemal serum antibody tests such as FTA (Fluorescent Treponemal Antibody) - ABS (Absorption) are sensitive and specific but do not provide information on disease activity. Nonspecific serum antibody tests such as RPR and Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test (VDRL), however, are more useful to obtain information on disease activity and therefore for therapeutic monitoring. Up to 38% of HIV positive individuals can be seronegative for specific treponemal serological tests despite active syphilitic disease. [2] It is recommended to check serum nontreponemal titers at intervals of 1 month, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 12 months to ensure that titers are declining appropriately (at least four fold in three to five months). [1]

Ocular syphilis is not correlated with CD 4 counts. [3],[4],[5] Usually CD4 counts are in low normal range. [1],[4] Kooed et al. showed that primary and secondary syphilis was associated with a decrease in CD4 cell counts and increase in HIV-RNA level. These levels returned to presyphilis levels or improved after treatment for syphilis. [7]

Central nervous system involvement is more frequent in HIV-positive patients [6] and is associated with CSF abnormalities (pleocytosis, [4] elevated proteins) [1] and neurological manifestations. [4] On the contrary, some reports have showed absent pleocytosis and negative VDRL on CSF examination. [8] Although the CSF analysis in patients with ocular syphilis does not change the treatment regimen, but helps to quantify the activity of the disease. [5] Four indications for lumbar punture have been proposed: (1) syphilis with neurologic abnormalities, (2) before retreatment of a patient with a relapse,(3) as a baseline before treatment with a nonpenicillin regimen, (4) in infants suspected of having congenital syphilis. [8] We perform CSF analysis in all patients with syphilitic uveitis, retinitis, or optic neuritis. Standard treatment of ocular syphilis is intravenous penicillin, as recommended for patients with neurosyphilis, regardless of immune status. [2] Relapse following intramuscular penicillin therapy is not rare. [2] Although the recommended penicillin (or ceftriaxone) intravenous therapy is usually effective in restoring complete visual function, reinfection by  Treponema pallidum Scientific Name Search y occur and a relapse of ocular manifestations is obscured in up to 14% patients. [8] Available alternatives, for use in penicillin allergic patients, include doxycycline, chloramphenical and ceftraixone because of their erratic CNS and ocular penetration, erythromycin and tetracycline should be avoided.

Fathilah et al. report a case of Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction in ocular syphilis. [9] Usually this reaction is self limiting but use of intravenous methylpredinoslone [10] or low dose steroids [11] have been reported. Syphilitic panuveitis may be the only presenting feature in HIV patients. Early diagnosis and therapy with intravenous penicillin and antiretroviral therapy will result in substantial visual recovery. Combined management with genitourinary physician for the systemic disease, including HIV, is recommended. Long term ocular and systemic follow up is mandatory because relapse or reinfection may occur.

   References Top

1.Kuo IC, Kapusta MA, Rao NA. Vitritis as the primary manifestation of ocular syphilis in patients with HIV infection. Am J Ophthalmol 1998;125:306-11.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
2.Shalaby IA, Dunn JP, Semba RD, Jabs DA. Syphilitic uveitis in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients. Arch Ophthalmol 1997;115:469-73.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
3.Alessia UA, Elena AB, Sara PB, Maseratia R. Syphilitic uveitis as presenting feature of HIV infection in elderly patients. AIDS 2007;21:535-7.  Back to cited text no. 3      
4.Tran TH, Cassoux N, Bodaghi B, Fardeau C, Caumes E, Lehoang P. Syphilitic uveitis in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2005;243:863-9.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
5.Balba GP, Kumar PN, James AN, Malani A, Palestine AG, Welch JN, et al. Ocular syphilis in HIV-positive patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy. Am J Med 2006;119:448e21-5.  Back to cited text no. 5      
6.Becerra LI, Ksiazek SM, Savino PJ, Marcus DK, Buckley RM, Sergott RC, et al. Syphilitic uveitis in human immunodeficiency virus-infected and noninfected patients. Ophthalmology 1989;96:1727-30.  Back to cited text no. 6      
7.Kofoed K, Gerstoft J, Mathiesen LR, Benfield T. Syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 coinfection: Influence on CD4 t-cell count, HIV-1 viral load, and treatment response. Sex Transm Dis 2006;33:143-8.  Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
8.Browning DJ. Posterior segment manifestations of active ocular syphilis, their response to a neurosyphilis regimen of penicillin therapy, and the influence of human immunodeficiency virus status on response. Ophthalmology 2000;107:2015-23.  Back to cited text no. 8  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
9.Fathilah J, Choo MM. The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction in ocular syphilis. Med J Malaysia 2003;58:437-9.  Back to cited text no. 9  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
10.Danesh-Meyer H, Kubis KC, Sergott RC. Not so slowly progressive visual loss. Surv Ophthalmol 1999;44:247-52.  Back to cited text no. 10  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
11.Doris JP, Saha K, Jones NP, Sukthankar A. Ocular syphilis: The new epidemic. Eye (Lond) 2006;20:703-5.  Back to cited text no. 11  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

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