Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may
not be helpful include:
The use of antibiotics before having the
A blood transfusion in the weeks before having the
Having other conditions or diseases, such as
HIV infection, or
a tropical bacterial infection called yaws.
What To Think About
Most states require doctors to report all cases of
syphilis to the local health department. In some states, doctors
are also required to ask for the names and addresses of your recent sex
partners. If you have syphilis, the health department may contact you to make sure
that you get treatment. If you give the names of your sex partners to your
doctor or the health department, they will be contacted in confidence by the
health department and advised to have a test for syphilis.
A reactive or positive test result does not always mean that you
have syphilis. Other conditions can cause positive screening test results,
including injecting illegal drugs, recent vaccinations,
autoimmune diseases (such as systemic lupus
erythematosus, or SLE),
Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and, in rare cases, pregnancy.
treatment, a positive reagin (VDRL and RPR) syphilis test result usually
becomes negative. Positive treponemal (FTA-ABS, MHA-TP, TPPA) tests stay
positive for a lifetime.
Syphilis and HIV infection
Sores caused by syphilis (chancres) make
it easier to get and spread an HIV infection.
People with HIV infection who have a negative VDRL test should
have a second test for syphilis if the infection is suspected.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Syphilis section of Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR-12): 26–39. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/default.htm.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Screening for syphilis infection in pregnancy: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine, 150(10): 705–709.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.