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Clinical and laboratory aspects of condylomata lata lesions of syphilis


Objectives Condylomata lata are a less common but distinctive syphilitic lesion. Variable theories as to their nature and origin exist. The aim of this study was to determine the clinical and laboratory characteristics of condylomata lata by determining (1): the most closely aligned stage of syphilis, based on the rapid plasma reagin (RPR) titre; (2) symptom duration and (3) Treponema pallidum PCR cycle threshold (CT) values, as an indicator of organism load.

Methods This was a retrospective study of patients with T. pallidum PCR-positive condylomata lata lesions, attending a clinic in Melbourne, Australia, between 2011 and 2021. Syphilis serology was undertaken and RPR titres compared between condylomata lata, primary and secondary syphilis cases.

Results 51 cases with T. pallidum PCR-positive condylomata lata were included. 41 cases were in men, 40 of whom were men who have sex with men (MSM), and 10 in women. Twelve of 51 (24%) cases were in HIV-positive MSM. Thirty-three of 51 (65%) had other mucocutaneous signs of secondary syphilis; 18 (35%) had no other signs of secondary syphilis. The median RPR titre among the 51 condylomata lata cases was 1:128, compared with the median RPR titre of primary syphilis (1:4) and of secondary syphilis (1:128). The median duration of lesions was 24 (IQR 10–60) days, with no significant difference between those with and without other signs of secondary syphilis (p=0.75). Median CT values for condylomata lata (CT=31) and primary syphilis (CT=31) were significantly lower than for other secondary syphilis lesion types (CT=33), indicating higher T. pallidum loads for condylomata lata and primary lesions compared with other secondary syphilis lesion types.

Discussion These findings support condylomata lata as lesions that occur during the secondary stage of syphilis and which are likely to be highly infectious.

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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