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PLoS One. 2016 Dec 16;11(12):e0168642. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0168642. eCollection 2016.

Incidence and Risk Factors for Incident Syphilis among HIV-1-Infected Men Who Have Sex with Men in a Large Urban HIV Clinic in Tokyo, 2008-2015.

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AIDS Clinical Center, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.



The epidemiology of incident syphilis infection among HIV-1-infected men who have sex with men (MSM) largely remains unknown.


The incidence and risk factors for incident syphilis (positive TPHA and RPR> = 1:8) among HIV-1-infected MSM who visited a large HIV clinic in Tokyo for the first time between 2008 and 2013 were determined, using clinical data and stored blood samples taken every three months for screening and determination of the date of incident syphilis. Poisson regression compared the incidence of syphilis at different observation periods.


Of 885 HIV-1-infected MSM with baseline data, 34% either presented with active syphilis at baseline (21%) or became infected with syphilis during follow-up (13%). After excluding 214 patients (MSM with syphilis at baseline (n = 190) and no follow-up syphilis test (n = 24)), of 671 men, 112 (17%) developed incident syphilis with an incidence of 43.7/1,000 person-years [95% CI, 36.5-52.3]. The incidence decreased slightly during observation period although the trend was not significant (2008-2009: 48.2/1,000 person-years, 2010-2011: 51.1/1,000 person-years, 2012-2013: 42.6/1,000 person-years, 2014 to 2015: 37.9/1,000 person-years, p = 0.315). Multivariable analysis identified young age (<33 years versus >40, HR 4.0, 95%CI 2.22-7.18, p<0.001), history of syphilis at baseline (HR 3.0, 95%CI 2.03-4.47, p<0.001), positive anti-amoeba antibody (HR 1.8, 95%CI 1.17-2.68, p = 0.006), and high baseline CD4 count (CD4 ≥350 /μL versus CD4 <200, HR 1.6, 95%CI 1.00-2.53, p = 0.050) as risk factors for incident syphilis. Incidence of syphilis was particularly high among young patients (age <33 years: 60.1/1,000 person-years). Interestingly, 37% of patients with incident syphilis were asymptomatic.


Although incidence of syphilis did not increase during the observation period, it was high among HIV-1-infected MSM, especially among young HIV-1-infected MSM and those with history of syphilis, in Tokyo. Regular screening for syphilis needs to be strictly applied to this population.

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