[The treatment of syphilis with mercury: an exemplary therapeutic history]

Hist Sci Med. 1996;30(4):501-10.
[Article in French]


Prior to the first use of penicillin against syphilis in 1943, mercury had a prominent position in the medical practice despite a tremendous toxicity and a questionable efficiency. In fact, during 450 years mercury remained the guarantee of efficacy. The modalities of use increased, the durations of treatment lengthened without any evidence of a worsening morbidity. This history of an exceptional duration seems to be a good example of the weight of tradition or habit in the medical practice, of the importance of the constraints supported by the patients, of the necessity and the difficulties to evaluate the treatments without error.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Mercury / history*
  • Syphilis / history*
  • Therapeutics / history


  • Mercury