Evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid in Southeast Asian refugees with reactive serologic tests for syphilis

Dedra Buchwald, Ann C. Collier, Sheila A. Lukehart, Phalla Kith, Erika Goldstein, Thomas M. Hooton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

To determine the prevalence of cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities in Southeast Asian refugees with reactive serologic tests for syphilis, we evaluated 65 patients, 36 prospectively and 29 retrospectively, in a primary care clinic. Information was collected on history of treponemal infections, neurologic symptoms and signs, and total protein concentration, leukocyte count, and the VDRL test in the cerebrospinal fluid. Neurologic symptoms were reported by all patients for whom data were available. Abnormal neurologic signs were found or noted in medical records in 15 (42%) prospectively evaluated patients and 9 (64%) of 14 retrospectively evaluated patients for whom data were available. No patient had evidence of congenital or non- neurologic sequelae such as cutaneous or cardiovascular manifestations of syphilis. No patient had a positive cerebrospinal fluid VDRL test, 1 had more than 5 x 106 leukocytes per liter (5 leukocytes per mm3), and 6 (9%) had elevated total protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid. Previous therapy for syphilis was not associated with lower serum VDRL reactions, neurologic symptoms and signs, or cerebrospinal fluid findings. In the absence of other indications, routine examination of the cerebrospinal fluid in seropositive Southeast Asian refugees who have nonspecific neurologic symptoms has a low yield, perhaps because of the high prevalence of yaws in this population, and may not be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-293
Number of pages5
JournalWestern Journal of Medicine
Volume165
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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