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April 5, 1976


Author Affiliations

Director Colorado General Health (VD) Clinic Denver

JAMA. 1976;235(14):1424. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260400012005

To the Editor.—  Burns reported spontaneous reversion of FTA-ABS reactions in patients undergoing preemployment examination. His conclusion was that "serologic tests for syphilis in individuals without physical evidence or history of disease and with negative VDRL and weakly fluorescent FTA-ABS tests should be followed up for about a year before the diagnosis of syphilis is made." In fact, as noted by Dans et al (unpublished data), biologic false-positive results comprise a large percentage of FTAABS reactive sera when such a lowprevalence population is sampled, and the test should not be performed in such patients. When syphilis is suspected, the patient need only be followed up for two to three months. If the VDRL and other treponemal tests remain nonreactive, without any other basis for the diagnosis, the FTA-ABS test should be considered biologically false-positive.In the QUESTION AND ANSWER section (234:975, 1975), a physician reported a patient with varicella and a