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Open Access Case report

Rapid, progressive neuropathic arthropathy of the hip in a patient co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C virus and tertiary syphilis: case report

Lorenzo Drago12*, Elena De Vecchi1, Marco Pasqualini3, Laura Moneghini4 and Maurilio Bruno3

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Clinical Chemistry and Microbiology, IRCCS Galeazzi Orthopaedic Institute, Milan, Italy

2 Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Dept of Clinical Science L.Sacco, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

3 Microsurgery Unit of Orthopaedic Dept, IRCCS Galeazzi Orthopaedic Institute, Milan, Italy

4 U.O. Anatomia Patologica, Dept of Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry, University of Milan, San Paolo Hospital and Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina Elena, Milan, Italy

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:159  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-159

Published: 6 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Syphilis is a chronic infection that is classified into three stages. In its tertiary stage, syphilis spreads to the brain, heart and other organs; the lesions may involve the skin, mucous membranes and bones. Neuropathic arthropathy associated with tertiary syphilis has rarely been described in Europe and its association with HIV-HCV co-infection has not been reported so far.

This article reports the case of a man with tertiary syphilis presenting with rapidly evolving neuropathic arthropathy of the hip and extensive bone destruction.

Case presentation

On initial presentation, the patient complained of progressively worsening left-sided coxalgia without localized or generalized inflammation. The patient reported to have no history of previous infections, trauma or cancer. Plain x-ray films of the left coxofemoral joint showed marked degeneration with necrosis of the proximal epiphysis of femur and morphological alterations of the acetabulum without protrusion. Primary coxarthrosis was diagnosed and hip arthroplasty was offered, but the patient declined treatment. Three months later, the patient presented a marked deterioration of his general condition. He disclosed that he was seropositive for HCV and HIV, as confirmed by serology. Syphilis serology testing was also positive. A Girdlestone's procedure was performed and samples were collected for routine cultures for bacteria and acid fast bacilli, all resulting negative.

Although histological findings were inconclusive, confirmed positive serology for syphilis associated with progressive arthropathy was strongly suggestive of tertiary syphilis, probably exacerbated by HIV-HCV co-infection. The patient partially recovered the ability to walk.

Conclusions

Due to the resurgence of syphilis, this disease should be considered as a possible cause of neuropathic arthropathy when other infectious causes have been ruled out, particularly in patients with HIV and/or HCV co-infection.

Keywords:
Neuropathy; Syphilis; HIV; HCV; Charcot arthropathy