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Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America


Adult; Chemokine CCL2; Chemokine CXCL10; Cognitive Dysfunction; Coinfection; Female; HIV; HIV Infections; Humans; Inflammation; Leukocyte Count; Male; Middle Aged; Monocytes, Activated Killer; Neurofilament Proteins; Neurosyphilis; RNA, Viral


Background: Individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who have previously had syphilis may have cognitive impairment. We tested the hypothesis that neurosyphilis causes cognitive impairment in HIV by amplifying HIV-related central nervous system (CNS) inflammation.

Methods: HIV-infected participants enrolled in a study of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) abnormalities in syphilis underwent the mental alternation test (MAT), venipuncture, and lumbar puncture. CSF concentrations of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 10 (CXCL10), chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2), and neurofilament light (NFL) were determined by commercial assays. The proportion of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and of CSF white blood cells (WBCs) that were activated monocytes (CD14+CD16+) was determined by flow cytometry. Neurosyphilis was defined as detection of Treponema pallidum 16S RNA in CSF or CSF white blood cells (WBCs) >20/uL or a reactive CSF-Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test; uncomplicated syphilis was defined as undetectable CSF T. pallidum, CSF WBCs ≤5/uL and nonreactive CSF-VDRL. MATlow.

Results: Median proportion of PBMCs that were activated monocytes (16.6 vs. 5.3), and median CSF CXCL10 (10658 vs. 2530 units), CCL2 (519 vs. 337 units) and HIV RNA (727 vs. 50 c/mL) were higher in neurosyphilis than in uncomplicated syphilis (P ≤ .001 for all comparisons). Neurosyphilis was not related to low MAT scores. Participants with low MAT scores had higher median CSF CXCL10 (10299 vs. 3650 units, P = .008) and CCL2 (519 vs. 365 units, P = .04) concentrations than those with high MAT scores.

Conclusions: Neurosyphilis may augment HIV-associated CNS inflammation, but it does not explain cognitive impairment in HIV-infected individuals with syphilis.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)




Infectious Diseases