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Acute Syphilitic Meningitis

Last updated Aug. 21, 2020

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Syphilis is a very common infectious disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.


The topic Acute Syphilitic Meningitis you are seeking is a synonym, or alternative name, or is closely related to the medical condition Neurosyphilis –Meningeal.

Quick Summary:

  • Syphilis is a very common infectious disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is generally transmitted through sexual contact. A pregnant woman affected by Syphilis can transmit the infection to her child through the placenta, while the baby is still in the womb
  • The disease leads to formation of lesions on the body, especially around the anus, genitalia, and mouth. Any contact with these ulcerative lesions result in a transmission of the condition
  • There are 3 stages in the progression of Syphilis; Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. The sooner the treatment is started, better is the outcome. If treatment is delayed or is lacking; it could develop into a serious medical issue with long-term neurological complications. In rare cases, the complications can even lead to death
  • The universal treatment for this condition (at all stages) is by using the drug penicillin, which can bring about a complete recovery. However, early recognition and management of the condition is extremely important

Primary stage: After the initial infection (direct sexual contact with affected individual), the bacterium spreads all over the body using the blood vessels and lymphatic system, and multiply rapidly. Primary lesions form within a few hours after infection, which contain large quantities of the Treponema bacteria.

Secondary stage: The bacterium invades tissues, cerebrospinal fluid, skin, and mucus membranes. It causes inflammatory rashes on the body (secondary lesions), within 4-12 weeks after the primary stage. This continues till a stage of dormancy is reached; after which multiple relapse or remissions take place (for the next 1-2 years).

Tertiary stage: After the secondary stage, there is a period of latency, which could last for many years. A third of all infections, then gradually progresses to Tertiary Syphilis. In this stage, the central nervous system is affected and several vital organs (heart, liver) may develop infections. This may take place after 3 years or sometimes even after 20 years. Tertiary Syphilis is classified into three key types, principally based on the infestation location. These are: Neurosyphilis, Cardiovascular Syphilis, and Gummatous Syphilis

  • Neurosyphilis occurs when the infection affects the central nervous system. It is grouped into six principal types; Meningeal Neurosyphilis is one among them
  • Neurosyphilis - Meningeal affects the brain, which becomes inflamed. This is accompanied by nausea, headaches, and muscular stiffness (in the neck region). The symptoms resolve spontaneously, although the course of the disease continues unchanged

Please find comprehensive information on Neurosyphilis – Meningeal regarding definition, distribution, risk factors, causes, signs & symptoms, diagnosis, complications, treatment, prevention, prognosis, and additional useful information HERE.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 11, 2017
Last updated: Aug. 21, 2020