Current clinical spectrum of neurosyphilis in immunocompetent patients

Eur Neurol. 2004;52(1):29-35. doi: 10.1159/000079391. Epub 2004 Jun 28.


Background: Neurosyphilis (NS) is nowadays a less frequent disease. Its incidence and clinical spectrum have changed over time.

Objective: To estimate the incidence of NS and describe the clinical spectrum of NS in immunocompetent patients in the last decade.

Methods: Demographic and clinical features, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) changes, neuroimaging findings and outcome were retrospectively analyzed.

Results: Forty-three patients met NS criteria. The yearly incidence was 0.2- 2.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The mean age was 48.1 years, males being more frequently involved. The most frequent clinical patterns were meningovascular (30.2%), meningeal (25.6%) and general paresis (25.6%). Compared to prepenicillin series, we observed a decrease in late forms, mainly tabes dorsalis. CSF titers studied by the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory were higher in early NS. Neuroimaging findings were nonspecific. Outcome was better for early forms.

Conclusions: Compared to the preantibiotic era, a lower frequency of late NS was observed, similar to that reported in other modern series which include patients with HIV infection. Therefore, this trend seems to be due to the impact of antibiotics rather than to HIV infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Demography
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / cerebrospinal fluid
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Meningitis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Meningitis / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosyphilis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Neurosyphilis / diagnosis
  • Neurosyphilis / etiology*
  • Neurosyphilis / immunology
  • Neurosyphilis / physiopathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tabes Dorsalis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Tabes Dorsalis / etiology*