Introduction The BASHH guidelines for syphilis recommend the offer of epidemiological treatment or re-screening at 12 weeks (12w) after exposure for asymptomatic sexual contacts. We reviewed local practice and compliance with guidance in view of the increasing need for antimicrobial stewardship.
Methods We conducted a retrospective case note review of patients coded as syphilis contact (PNS) between January 2015 and July 2016.
Results We identified 44 patients (40 [91%] male; 35 [80%] men who have sex with men) reporting syphilis contact. There were 12 (27%) symptomatic, who were all given treatment; 7 (63.6%) with subsequently positive syphilis serology. Of 32 (73%) asymptomatic patients 25 (78%) received treatment. All 25 reported ongoing sexual contact with the index partner or others within the window period (WP) and serology was consistent with active infection in 5 (20%). Of the 7 (21.9%) that didn’t receive epidemiological treatment 5 were outside the WP and tested negative; 1 declined treatment and tested negative at 12w; 1 contact of late latent syphilis tested negative within the WP but failed to attend 12w follow up. There were 8 (18%) with other STIs at presentation.
Discussion While penicillin-resistant syphilis is not an immediate concern, contacts may have other infections that could be partially treated with penicillin based or tetracycline antibiotics potentiating resistance. Over half our patients were at risk of re-infecting or transmitting to partners supporting the basis for epidemiological treatment but should we consider the option of treating symptomatics at presentation and abstinence advice pending results?
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