Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2015 Dec;21(6 Neuroinfectious Disease):1714-28. doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000000250.


Purpose of review: This article reviews the etiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of neurosyphilis, with a focus on issues of particular relevance to neurologists.

Recent findings: The number of cases of infectious syphilis in the United States has steadily increased since 2000. The highest rates are among men who have sex with men, and approximately half of these individuals are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Neurosyphilis is a serious complication of syphilis that can develop at any time in the course of syphilis. Two neuroimaging patterns should alert the neurologist to a diagnosis of neurosyphilis: cerebral gummas, which are dural-based lesions that can mimic meningiomas, and medial temporal lobe abnormalities that can mimic herpes encephalitis. Penicillin G is the recommended treatment for neurosyphilis, but ceftriaxone may be an acceptable alternative.

Summary: The diagnosis of neurosyphilis can be challenging. A sound understanding of the clinical manifestations and the strengths and limitations of diagnostic tests are essential tools for the neurologist.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neurosyphilis* / diagnosis
  • Neurosyphilis* / drug therapy
  • Neurosyphilis* / etiology
  • Neurosyphilis* / physiopathology