Background: Success of neurosyphilis treatment is defined by normalization of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and clinical abnormalities. The goal of this study was to determine whether normalization of serum rapid plasma reagin (RPR) titer could accurately predict treatment success.
Methods: One hundred ten patients who were enrolled in a longitudinal study of CSF abnormalities in syphilis had asymptomatic syphilitic meningitis, symptomatic syphilitic meningitis, or syphilitic eye disease and were treated for neurosyphilis. At 4, 7, and 13 months after treatment, serum RPR titer and CSF and clinical abnormalities were analyzed for normalization. Odds ratios for normalization of each CSF and clinical abnormality when serum RPR titer had normalized and the positive predictive value of normalization of serum RPR titer for normalization of CSF and clinical abnormalities were determined.
Results: Serum RPR titer had normalized in 63 patients (57%) by 4 months after treatment, in 94 (85%) by 7 months, and in 97 (88%) by 13 months. Except for CSF protein concentration, normalization of serum RPR titer predicted normalization of other CSF and clinical abnormalities in >80% of patients at 4 months, >85% at 7 months, and >90% at 13 months. The odds of normalization of CSF and clinical abnormalities were 28-57-fold higher when serum RPR titer had normalized, compared with when it had not. Normalization of serum RPR titer was consistently less accurate in predicting treatment success in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients who were not receiving antiretroviral therapy, compared with those who were receiving such therapy.
Conclusions: In most instances, normalization of serum RPR titer correctly predicts success of treatment of neurosyphilis, and follow-up lumbar puncture can be avoided.