NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For people who are allergic to penicillin, another antibiotic -- ceftriaxone (brand name, Rocephin) -- appears to be a good alternative for the treatment of syphilis, specifically when the patient is a pregnant woman.
The findings come from a small study conducted in China, where the disease was virtually eliminated in the 1960s but has become widespread in recent years. Treating syphilis in pregnancy is imperative, because the baby can become infected, with disastrous consequences.
"Penicillin G has proven effective in treating (prenatal) syphilis and preventing or curing congenital syphilis," Dr. Pingyu Zhou and colleagues from the Shanghai Skin and STD Institute note in the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
"However, the pregnant woman who is allergic to penicillin presents a major dilemma," the team explains.
Ceftriaxone is a broad-spectrum non-penicillin injected antibiotic, which is considered safe for both mother and fetus. The researchers evaluated the efficacy of ceftriaxone in 11 pregnant women diagnosed with early syphilis.
The women were treated for either 7 or 10 days, and a second course was given at 28 weeks' into pregnancy.
Within 3 months of treatment, blood levels of syphilis markers decreased fourfold in all women and did not increase during 24 months of followup. All of the newborns had negative syphilis tests at delivery or 6 months after delivery.
These results, the team concludes, "justify a large-scale randomized clinical trial."
SOURCE: Sexually Transmitted Diseases, August 2005.