NEW YORK — Increased syphilis testing among gay men increased detection of early latent infections and was accompanied by a fall in the proportion of cases involving secondary syphilis, investigators report in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases, AIDSMap reports.
Researchers said they believe this is the first study to show the benefits of catching syphilis early before it develops to later, more infectious stages, AIDSMap reports.
Since the late 1990s, rates of syphilis have been increasing among gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in major cities around the world. Many of these infections involve MSM living with HIV.
A team of investigators examined rates of syphilis testing and diagnoses among HIV-negative and HIV-positive MSM. They especially wanted to see if increased testing was accompanied by an increase in the proportion of syphilis infections detected in the early latent stage.
Data from 46 sexual health clinics across Australia were analyzed.There were approximately 359,000 clinic visits during the study period. A third of these visits involved men with HIV, AIDSMap reports.
The proportion of HIV-negative men tested for syphilis increased from 48 percent in 2007 to 91 percent in 2014.
Increased testing was accompanied by a significant increase in the proportion of cases of syphilis diagnosed in the early latent stage of infection (27 to 44 percent), while the proportion of cases involving secondary infection decreased from 24 to 19 percent. There was also a fall in the number of cases of primary syphilis detected (49 to 38 percent), AIDSMap reports.
An increase was also observed in the proportion of HIV-positive MSM tested for syphilis as part of their routine care, from 42 to 77 percent. The mean number of tests per patient per year increased from 1.6 to 2.3 tests, the AIDSMap article notes.