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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 214-215

Co-infection of syphilis and gonorrhea: Double Venus's curse on a homosexual male

1 Department of Dermatology, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College, Puducherry, India
2 Venereology Department, Institute of Venereology, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication12-Oct-2015

Correspondence Address:
Rajesh Kumar Gurumoorthy
Department of Dermatology, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College and Hospital, Madagadipet, Puducherry - 605 107
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0253-7184.167188

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How to cite this article:
Gurumoorthy RK, Sankar M, Vishwanath S. Co-infection of syphilis and gonorrhea: Double Venus's curse on a homosexual male. Indian J Sex Transm Dis 2015;36:214-5

How to cite this URL:
Gurumoorthy RK, Sankar M, Vishwanath S. Co-infection of syphilis and gonorrhea: Double Venus's curse on a homosexual male. Indian J Sex Transm Dis [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jul 26];36:214-5. Available from:


Sexually transmitted co-infections are common among female sex workers, men having sex with men (MSM) and injectable drug users owing to their high-risk sexual behavior. Such multiple coexisting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly ulcerative STIs increase the risk of acquiring HIV infection by manifold. [1]

A 21-year-old male presented to our outpatient department with a painless genital ulcer of 10 days duration and copious urethral discharge associated with dysuria for 5 days. Patient gave a history of oro-insertive and ano-insertive sex with many male partners in the previous 1-month. Examination of genitalia revealed a single well defined nontender indurated ulcer of size 2 cm over corona glandis. Urethral meatus was found to be inflamed along with copious nonfoul smelling purulent discharge [Figure 1]. Right sided firm nontender inguinal lymphadenopathy was present. Examination of skin, oral cavity and other systems were normal.
Figure 1: Primary chancre indicated by white arrow and urethral discharge indicated by red arrow

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The venereal disease research laboratory test was reactive in 1:4 dilutions at the time of presentation. Subsequently, the diagnosis was confirmed with a positive Syphicheck. Gram stained smear of urethral discharge showed multiple intracellular Gram-negative diplococci and pus cultured showed gonococcal growth. Chlamydial polymerase chain reaction done from the urethral discharge was also negative. Serological tests for HIV, HSV-2, and hepatitis B surface antigen were negative. Patient was given syndromic treatment according to NACO guidelines. Urethral discharge completely resolved in 3 days and the ulcer resolved in a week, after treatment.

John Hunter's claim that syphilis and gonorrhea were one disease caused by a common pathogen was based on his erroneous and controversial, supposedly self-inoculation experiment (1767). Unfortunately, the inoculated pus material was obtained from a patient who probably had a co-infection of syphilis and gonorrhea. His claim remained unchallenged for many years because of his authority and reputation in the field of medicine, before Philippe Ricord could successfully disprove it (1838). [2] Such a combination of sexually transmitted co-infections is rarely reported these days.

In this case the patient reported to have had multiple sexual contacts with many unknown males in the previous month and had indulged in ano-insertive and oro-insertive acts each time. Considering the incubation period of syphilis and gonorrhoea, and the order of appearance of symptoms, it is likely that he had acquired these infections from different sources.

The exact prevalence of various STIs among MSM in India is not known. [3] MSM have high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases compared with demographically matched controls. [4] STI rates among MSM are on the increase. Individual high-risk behaviors such as higher number of lifetime sex partners, high rates of partner change, unprotected sex and anal intercourse are contributory factors. Prevalence of various STIs was significantly higher among HIV-positive MSM than HIV-negative MSM. Various coexisting STIs are thus a strong risk factor for acquiring HIV among MSM. [5]

All these facts reiterate the importance of routine screening of all possible STIs using appropriate tests in high-risk individuals. Such a rare combination of STIs coexisting in this case is an evidence for very high prevalence of STIs among MSM and the role of high-risk sexual practices in transmitting STIs among them.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Kalichman SC, Pellowski J, Turner C. Prevalence of sexually transmitted co-infections in people living with HIV/AIDS: Systematic review with implications for using HIV treatments for prevention. Sex Transm Infect 2011;87:183-90.  Back to cited text no. 1
Herman JR. Syphilis and gonorrhea are one disease: John Hunter (1760). Int J Dermatol 1978;17:252-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
Thomas B, Mimiaga MJ, Kumar S, Swaminathan S, Safren SA, Mayer KH. HIV in Indian MSM: Reasons for a concentrated epidemic and strategies for prevention. Indian J Med Res 2011;134:920-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Mayer KH. Sexually transmitted diseases in men who have sex with men. Clin Infect Dis 2011;53 Suppl 3:S79-83.  Back to cited text no. 4
CDC - STD Surveillance, 2011-Men Who Have Sex with Men; 2011. Available from: http: // [Last accessed on 2014 Mar 26].  Back to cited text no. 5


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