Robust pro-inflammatory immune response is associated with serological cure in patients with syphilis: an observational study

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Approximately 15% of adequately treated patients with early syphilis remain serofast. Pathogenesis and clinical significance of this phenomenon is unclear. The objective of this study was to determine whether there is any association between host immune response and treatment outcome (serofast state or proper serological response).


Forty-four patients with secondary syphilis were enrolled to this study. Levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interferon-γ, tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 were measured before treatment and 8 hours after injection of antibiotic.


After 1 year, based on the serological response patients were stratified into two groups: (1) proper serological response (n=31) and (2) serofast state (n=9). The serological cure rate was 77.5% at 12 months after treatment. Patients with proper serological response had significantly higher levels of analysed cytokines (at baseline and 8 hours after treatment) compared with the serofast state group (p<0.05).


We showed that robust host pro-inflammatory immune response to infection may be the predictive factor of serological cure. The treatment outcome may be also associated with the magnitude of immune reaction occurring during the treatment.

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