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March 23, 1957


JAMA. 1957;163(12):1046-1047. doi:10.1001/jama.1957.02970470044010

For many years physicians have been confronted with the problem of how to evaluate or interpret serologic reports obtained from the laboratory in determining the presence or absence of a syphilitic infection. Most physicians have encountered nonsyphilitic patients with unexplained positive serologic reactions.

While it is true that most positive serologic results are due to syphilis and perhaps represent a type of immunological reaction, it is no less true that some positive serologic results may be unrelated to syphilis and represent a general biological phenomenon. Many persons, therefore, have been stigmatized as having syphilis and even given unnecessary treatment on the basis of positive reactions disclosed by routine serologic examinations. With a continued decrease in the incidence of syphilis, there will be a relative increase of the biologically false-positive reactions. In fact, there is rapidly accumulating evidence1 that about 40% of the white persons in upper socioeconomic and educational