SF DPH issues alert about ocular syphilis

Since December 2014, seven cases of ocular syphilis have been reported in San Francisco. Five of the affected individuals were men who have sex with men (MSM) and six were HIV-infected.
The cause of this cluster of cases is uncertain; an increase in cases was also recently reported in King County, WA. Several of the cases have resulted in a significant and permanent decline in visual acuity. Evidence suggests that certain strains of Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis, may be more likely to cause central nervous system (CNS) disease. It is not known whether there are strains of T. pallidum that have a greater likelihood of causing ocular infections, but the cluster of cases raises this possibility.