Molecular Typing of Treponema pallidum in Ocular Syphilis

Sara Oliver, Sharon K. Sahi, Lauren C. Tantalo, Charmie Godornes, Robyn Neblett Fanfair, Lauri E. Markowitz, Sheila A. Lukehart, Christina M. Marra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background Syphilis can have many clinical manifestations, including eye involvement, or "ocular syphilis." In 2015, an increase in reported cases of ocular syphilis and potential case clusters raised concern for an oculotropic strain of Treponema pallidum, the infectious agent of syphilis. Molecular typing was used to examine strains found in cases of ocular syphilis in the United States. Methods In 2015, after a clinical advisory issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pretreatment clinical specimens from US patients with ocular syphilis were sent to a research laboratory for molecular analysis of T. pallidum DNA. Molecular typing was conducted on these specimens, and results were compared with samples collected from Seattle patients diagnosed with syphilis, but without ocular symptoms. Results Samples were typed from 18 patients with ocular syphilis and from 45 patients with syphilis, but without ocular symptoms. Clinical data were available for 14 ocular syphilis patients: most were men, human immunodeficiency virus-infected, and had early syphilis. At least 5 distinct strain types of Treponema pallidum were identified in these patients, and 9 types were identified in the Seattle nonocular patients. 14d/g was the most common type in both groups. An unusual strain type was detected in a small cluster of ocular syphilis patients in Seattle. Conclusions Ocular syphilis is a serious sequela of syphilis. In this preliminary study, clear evidence of a predominant oculotropic strain causing ocular syphilis was not detected. Identification of cases and prompt treatment is critical in the management of ocular syphilis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-527
Number of pages4
JournalSexually transmitted diseases
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular Typing of Treponema pallidum in Ocular Syphilis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this