Neurosyphilis in a tertiary care hospital in north India

Indian J Med Res. 2005 Sep;122(3):249-53.


Background and objectives: The clinical diagnosis of neurosyphilis is very rarely encountered today in the developed world although syphilis remains a significant health problem in few areas of the industrialized countries and in most of the third world nations. This apparent decline may be due to increase in number of asymptomatic neurosyphilis and cases presenting as subtle, illdefined syndromes rather than classic presentation of tabes dorsalis and general paresis in the post penicillin era. This retrospective study was carried out to report the neurosyphilis cases diagnosed at a tertiary care hospital in North India, and to analyse the laboratory and clinical parameters of these cases.

Methods: Suspected cases of neurosyphilis presenting at Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh over a period of 13 yr (January 1990 to December 2002) were identified. Diagnosis of neurosyphilis was based on clinical presentation, prior history of syphilis, routine CSF biochemistry (protein and leukocytes) and serological evidence [serum and CSF venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) and Treponema pallidum particle agglutination (TPPA) tests].

Results: A total of 25 cases of neurosyphilis were identified, 18 (72%) with reactive CSF-VDRL, 22 (88%) with elevated CSF protein and 24 (96%) with CSF mononuclear leukocytosis. Serum VDRL was reactive in all 25 cases. Three patients were asymptomatic (2 primary syphilis; 1 early latent stage), 8 had secondary and 14 had tertiary syphilis. Two of the neurosyphilis cases were also seropositive for HIV. Radiology was abnormal in 7 (28%) patients.

Interpretation and conclusion: Neurosyphilis still remains a problem in a country like India and a high index of suspicion and clinical expertise are required for appropriate diagnosis and proper management especially in the era of AIDS pandemic.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / cytology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / microbiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins / metabolism
  • HIV Seropositivity / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Neurosyphilis / diagnosis*
  • Neurosyphilis / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syphilis Serodiagnosis


  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins