Background: The course of neurosyphilis has been reported to be altered by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Prior reports of neurosyphilis occurring in association with HIV infection have been largely anecdotal and have failed to compare neurosyphilis in patients with HIV infection with an uninfected control group. This study was performed to determine if the clinical presentation encountered is different in the presence of HIV infection.
Design: A retrospective, hospital-based, case series study based on chart review encompassing a 64-month period.
Setting: The study was performed in a large, university-affiliated, public health trust hospital in south Florida.
Patients: Forty-six hospitalized patients with neurosyphilis were identified; 13 patients fulfilled Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, Ga) criteria for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), 11 were HIV seropositive only, and 22 were HIV uninfected. Neurosyphilis was determined by a reactive cerebrospinal fluid VDRL slide test.
Results: The HIV-infected patients (both AIDS and HIV-seropositive groups) were younger and more frequently had features of secondary syphilis, such as rash, fever, adenopathy, headache, or meningismus. Significant differences were observed in cerebrospinal fluid measurements when the HIV-infected group was compared with the HIV-uninfected group, including a higher mean white blood cell count in patients with AIDS and a higher mean protein level and a lower mean glucose level in the HIV-infected group. Syphilitic meningitis was more common in HIV-seropositive patients, although the HIV-uninfected patients presented with a greater variety of types of neurosyphilis. Ophthalmic syphilis was observed more frequently in the HIV-infected group.
Conclusions: Significant differences exist between neurosyphilis occurring in the presence and absence of HIV infection.