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August 1966

Serologic Tests for Syphilis and the False-Positive Reactor

Author Affiliations


From the Venereal Disease Branch, Communicable Disease Center, US Public Health Service, US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare assigned to the city and county of San Francisco, Department of Public Health, San Francisco (Dr. Wuepper); Division of Laboratories, California Department of Health, Berkeley, Cailf (Dr. Bodily); and Division of Dermatology, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco (Dr. Tuffanelli).

Arch Dermatol. 1966;94(2):152-155. doi:10.1001/archderm.1966.01600260044004

The role of treponemal and nontreponemal tests in the serodiagnosis of syphilis is reviewed. Diagnostic problem cases should be evaluated by treponemal tests to distinguish latent syphilis from false-positive reactions. A comparison of treponemal tests performed on serum from 101 late latent and tertiary syphilitics showed that the fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-ABS) test is more sensitive than the Treponema pallidum immobilization (TPI) or FTA-200 tests. Objective evidence of late syphilis was present in 6 of 11 patients with discordant test results (TPI nonreactive; FTA-ABS reactive).

Of the 50 chronic false-positive reactors studied, 24 had evidence of lupus erythematosus or another of the autoimmune diseases.

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