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September 1969

Serologic Reactivity in Consecutive Patients Admitted to a General Hospital: A Comparison of the FTA-ABS, VDRL, and Automated Reagin Tests

Author Affiliations


From the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory, Venereal Disease Branch, State and Community Services Division, National Communicable Disease Center, Health Services and Mental Health Administration, Public Health Service, US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Atlanta; and the Department of Pathology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta.

Arch Intern Med. 1969;124(3):364-367. doi:10.1001/archinte.1969.00300190104017

Treponemal (fluorescent treponemal antibody-absorption [FTA-ABS]) and nontreponemal (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory [VDRL] and automated reagin) tests were performed on patients consecutively admitted to a general hospital. The FTA-ABS test was reactive in 16.8% of the patients compared with a 9.5% reactivity rate for the VDRL test. A history of treated or untreated syphilis was obtained in 73 of 78 patients with a reactive FTA-ABS test; in the 5 remaining patients, the diagnosis of syphilis could not definitely be established. An additional 40 (8.6%) patients demonstrated borderline reactivity in the FTA-ABS test. Of these, eight were found to have had syphilis. In the present study, the FTA-ABS test was reactive more often than either the VDRL or the automated reagin tests; however, both the nontreponemal and treponemal tests were reactive in three patients who had previously undetected, untreated syphilis. The results of this study suggest that syphilis should be considered more