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Acute syphilitic chorioretinitis after a missed primary diagnosis: a case report

Claudia Handtrack1, Harald Knorr2, Kerstin U Amann3, Christoph Schoerner4, Karl F Hilgers1 and Walter Geißdörfer4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nephrology and Hypertension, Krankenhausstraße 12, 91054 Erlangen, Germany

2 Department of Ophthalmology, Schwabachanlage 6, 91054 Erlangen, Germany

3 Institut of Pathology, Krankenhausstraße 8, 91054 Erlangen, Germany

4 Institut of Clinical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene, Wasserturmstraße 3, 91054 Erlangen, Germany

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Journal of Medical Case Reports 2008, 2:33  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-2-33

Published: 1 February 2008



Syphilis is well known as an infectious disease which can present with a large variety of symptoms. Clinical diagnosis can be difficult and may be complicated in modern medicine by immunosuppressive treatment and possible side effects of medication.

Case presentation

We describe a rare case of placoid chorioretinitis due to Treponema pallidum which developed after the primary symptom of proteinuria was not recognized as a rare manifestation of syphilis. Diagnosis of syphilitic chorioretinitis and/or endophthalmitis was made by broad range amplification of the bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene obtained from vitreous after diagnostic vitrectomy.


This case shows that clinicians should be alert in patients with proteinuria and chorioretinitis as they can represent rare manifestations of syphilis. Syphilis should be in the differential diagnosis of any unknown symptom and in the presumed side effects of medication.