Psychosis in neurosyphilis -- clinical aspects and implications

F Friedrich, M Aigner, N Fearns, M E Friedrich, R Frey, A Geusau

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Review article

29 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization estimates that 10-12 million new syphilis infections occur each year. Without treatment, years to decades after initial infection, 30% of affected individuals may develop tertiary syphilis, which can manifest as neurosyphilis. The aim of this review is to evaluate the research literature examining the psychopathological manifestations of psychosis in association with neurosyphilis.

METHOD: The authors performed a systematic electronic search for published studies (1995-2012). The following databases were used: Medline, Embase and the Cochrane Library as well as the search engines Scopus and Google Scholar.

RESULTS: 61 articles were used for detailed analysis. Psychotic symptoms due to neurosyphilis are numerous and can inform differential diagnosis for many psychotic manifestations according to ICD-10 or DSM-IV.

CONCLUSION: Due to our results, current epidemiological data, and the difficulties in differential diagnosis of neurosyphilis, routine screening tests are still recommended in the psychiatric field. Long-term psychiatric input, with periodic syphilis titre controls, seems indicated in individuals affected by neurosyphilis with psychiatric symptoms. Furthermore, individuals with mental health problems may be at higher risk of acquiring syphilis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-9
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Brain/microbiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders/complications
  • Neurosyphilis/diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders/diagnosis
  • Syphilis/psychology
  • Treponema pallidum/isolation & purification


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