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Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical

Print version ISSN 0037-8682On-line version ISSN 1678-9849

Rev. Soc. Bras. Med. Trop. vol.52  Uberaba  2019  Epub May 30, 2019 

Images in Infectious Diseases

Secondary syphilis: a woman with flat condyloma

Leonardo Moscovici1

Renata Zago Lorenzato2 

Wanessa Teixeira Bellissimo-Rodrigues1 

Fernando Bellissimo-Rodrigues1 

1Departamento de Medicina Social, Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brasil.

2Clínica Tardelli, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brasil.

A 27-year-old woman presented to her general practitioner with a 2-month history of tongue lesions (Figure 1), generalized arthralgia, and adenomegaly. Her physician requested general tests and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) serology, which were negative, and neck ultrasound, which revealed reactional cervical adenomegaly. She was referred to a dental surgeon and dermatologist for further physical examination, which showed exanthema (Figure 2). Secondary syphilis was hypothesized, and a venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test was requested (titer 1:256). She was then diagnosed with secondary syphilis flat condyloma.

FIGURE 1: A 27-year-old woman’s tongue with secondary syphilis flat condyloma. 

FIGURE 2: Exanthema of the secondary syphilis. 

Syphilis is a systemic, progressive infection caused by Treponema pallidum, involving temporary skin and mucous membrane lesions that spontaneously heal, falsely suggesting cure. Thus, many infected patients do not seek medical help and continue spreading the pathogen, mainly through sexual contact1,2, partially explaining the 12 million new syphilis infections yearly worldwide, with a tendency to increasing incidence2,3.

Most of the syphilis cases are usually detected among men who have sexual intercourse with men. Therefore, HIV coinfection is common1. Syphilis has four classic stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. The most common secondary stage manifestations are mucocutaneous lesions (including nonpruritic rash) and lymphadenopathy2,3. Oral lesions may appear in the primary stage but tend to arise in the secondary stage. Distinguishing oral cavity features include painless ulcers or irregular mucosal plaques primarily affecting the tongue, lips, and jugal mucosa. Oral lesions usually contain excessive T. pallidum and are highly infectious1,2.

Secondary syphilis may mimic several diseases, including cancer, rheumatic disorders, hanseniasis, seborrheic dermatitis, pityriasis rosea, and drug rashes, complicating clinical diagnosis1-3. Arthralgia and ocular impairment occur rarely. The treatment of choice is penicillin2-3.

The present article highlights unusual clinical aspects of an ancient but reemerging infectious disease and may assist physicians and dental surgeons to diagnose syphilis. Introducing early, adequate treatment will reduce its spread.


1. Fregnani ER, Pérez-de-Oliveira ME, Parahyba CJ, Perez DE. Primary syphilis: An uncommon manifestation in the oral cavity. J Formos Med Assoc. 2017;116(4):326-7. [ Links ]

2. Seibt CE, Munerato MC. Secondary syphilis in the oral cavity and the role of the dental surgeon in STD prevention, diagnosis and treatment: a case series study. Braz J Infect Dis. 2016;20(4):393-8. [ Links ]

3. Kasper DL, Fauci AS, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Jameson JL, Loscalzo J. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th edition. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2015. 1241 p. [ Links ]

Received: July 31, 2018; Accepted: January 28, 2019

Corresponding author: Leonardo Moscovici.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License