Syphilis is a dreaded bacterial infection that is spread through sexual contact. The disease typically manifests as a painless sore that appears in the genital area, near the mouth or on other parts of the body. Syphilis is a serious and worrying disease as, if left untreated it can even cause damage to the heart and brain. In the past it was not very easy to diagnose syphilis, but with the advent of serological testing syphilis test accuracy and diagnosis has greatly improved. This said, there are varying levels of accuracy among the different methods of testing and also dependent on the stage of syphilis. As indicated the disease progresses in stages and neglect can lead to serious complications and fatalities. Having a syphilis infection also greatly increases your vulnerability to the HIV virus. Syphillis tests are valuable however, as the condition if detected early can be treated effectively with antibiotics.
There are different methods of testing that involve diagnosis with a sample of body fluids like blood, saliva, or fluid from sores. Blood tests do have a high level of accuracy and are used to measure the presence of antibodies produced to fight of the infection. These antibodies remain in the system for years which is why the test can also help ascertain a past infection. Testing with a scraped cell sample from the sores can only be performed during the primary or secondary stages of syphilis. These sores only present themselves during the first two stages, during which investigation can reveal the bacterial presence. Cerebrospinal fluid tests are only used if there is any suspicion of nervous system complications from syphilis and require a cerebrospinal fluid sample that is drawn via a procedure called a lumbar puncture.
Since syphilis test accuracy is very dependent on the stage of infection there may be a need for repeated testing if the initial results are inconclusive or if there has been any repeated exposure to infection. This would be in the case of the person having unprotected intercourse. You should keep in mind that some methods of testing like venereal disease research laboratory test or VDRL and rapid plasma reagin test or the RPR have high sensitivity levels during the middle stages. However, screening tests are not very specific and have a high incidence of false positive results. The presence of certain other diseases like malaria, lupus, pneumonia or Lyme disease and HIV can cause false positive results with VDRL and RPR tests.More articles from the Medical Tests Category