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Liver function in early congenital syphilis: does penicillin cause a deterioration?

Author(s): Venter A, Pettifor JM, Duursma J, Pudifin DJ, Smyth A, Becker PJ

Affiliation(s): Department of Pediatrics, University of Witwatersrand, Baragwanath Hospital, Republic of South Africa.

Publication date & source: 1991-04, J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr., 12(3):310-4.

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Comparative Study ; Randomized Controlled Trial

In this prospective study, neonates with clinical congenital syphilis were investigated to determine if penicillin therapy caused a deterioration in liver function. The relationship between circulating immune complexes and liver involvement was monitored, and the efficacy of steroid therapy as an adjunct in the treatment of congenital syphilis was investigated. Thirty neonates with clinical congenital syphilis were randomly assigned into two groups: one group received penicillin therapy only, and the other group penicillin and prednisone as an adjunct. Twenty-one infants who did not have clinical or serological syphilis, born to seropositive mothers, served as a "control" group. Liver function tests, full blood counts, and immunological studies were performed at various intervals up to 3 months of age. Although the symptomatic groups differed significantly from the asymptomatic group in most of the parameters measured, there were no significant differences noted between the two symptomatic groups at any time point. No direct relationship between penicillin therapy and either deteriorating liver function or the presence of circulating immune complexes could be demonstrated. Also, prednisone therapy did not modify any of the parameters studied.

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