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June 3, 1974

Serological Tests for Syphilis in Rape Cases

Author Affiliations

Arlington, Va

JAMA. 1974;228(10):1227-1228. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230350017008

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To the Editor.—  In answer to a request for guidelines on the management of victims of attempted or actual rape who are brought to a hospital emergency department, I stated that the examination should include "a blood sample for syphilis serological test and urine for pregnancy test" (226:1577, 1973).In a letter to the editor (227:1381, 1974), Michael I. Greenberg objected on the grounds thatIf a patient appears at the emergency department within hours of the alleged rape, a serological test for syphilis would be useless, as the assay is dependent upon the systemic response of the individual's immune system. This may not be manifest for up to several weeks.On the contrary, the test for syphilis is of medicolegal value in these cases, because a negative finding at the time of initial examination followed by a positive one in four to six weeks is evidence that syphilis is