Background Syphilis is increasing in prevalence in the community.1 2 Neurosyphilis has protean manifestations making recognition, diagnosis and early initiation of treatment challenging.
Methods/Results We present a case of early syphilitic meningitis in a 37-year-old female presenting with multiple cranial neuropathies (V, VI, VII, VIII and XII) developing over the course of two weeks. This began with a sensation of disequilibrium and unsteady gait, and progressed to difficulty closing both eyes, right lip numbness, bilateral hearing impairment (right, followed by left), and dysarthria. She did not report headache, meningism, features of primary syphilis infection or risk factors for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Examination confirmed the presence of right-sided trigeminal, bilateral abducens, facial, vestibulocochlear and hypoglossal nerve palsies. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination was inflammatory (protein 1.28 g/L, glucose 3.8mmol/L) with predominant lymphocytosis (76%, WCC 441 x 106/L). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated post-contrast enhancement of the trigeminal nerve at the pons, as well as facial and vestibulocochlear nerves at the geniculate ganglion with no leptomeningeal enhancement. Our patient was diagnosed with neurosyphilis on serum and CSF serological testing (Serum Treponema pallidum particle agglutination assay (TPPA) positive, chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay (CMIA) IgG and IgM positive, rapid plasma reagen 1:32. CSF TPPA positive, Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test titre of 1:8). She was treated with intravenous benzylpenicillin with rapid improvement in her cranial neuropathies.
Conclusions This is the most extensive cranial neuropathy reported with syphilitic infections to date. Neurosyphilis should be considered as a differential in patients presenting with multiple cranial neuropathies.
Kojima N, Klausner J. An update on the global epidemiology of syphilis. Curr Epidemiol Rep 2018;5(1):24–38.
Ghanem K, Ram S, Rice P. The modern epidemic of syphilis. N Engl J Med 2020;382(24):2379–80.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.