What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that affects more than 12 million people a year worldwide, 70,000 of which are affected in the U.S.
Caused by the bacteria Treponema Palladium, Syphilis is contracted and transmitted via sexual contact. It can also be transmitted via mother to fetus, known as congenital syphilis. There is currently no vaccine for syphilis, so safe sex practices and early diagnosis are essential for helping lessen the occurrence of the disease among sexually active men and women.
Primary syphilis is the first stage.
Syphillis smptoms usually surface as a non-itchy skin ulceration that is relatively painless.
Secondary stage usually manifests as a rash on the palms or the foot soles. Another stage known as latent syphilis usually has no symptoms at all.
The more severe symptoms can be seen in the tertiary stage and can affect the neurological and cardiac systems. If a person is sexually active, testing for syphilis is important because early diagnosis is key.
How To Treat Syphilis
Most cases of syphilis, if caught early, can be treated via antibiotics, like penicillin, doxycycline or azithromycin. If left untreated, syphilis infection can lead to serious neurological and cardiovascular complications as well as deformation and eventually death. In addition, most fetuses’ are carried by an infected, untreated mother die within 4-5 months gestational.
Screening and testing for syphilis can be different.
When screening for syphilis a VDRL test is used. VDRL is an acronym for Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test. It is very sensitive blood test and is a very fast way to produce results via microscope. Invented before World War 2 and still used today, the VDRL slide test is a good screener; however, specific tests must be done to diagnose Syphilis.
The VDRL test is known as a nontreponemal test and is more specific in detection of neurosyphilis. A nontreponaemal test is a way to detect antibodies and cellular damage present in the body when syphilis is suspected.
In addition, nontreponemal blood tests can be less reliable in detecting primary syphilis, resulting in false-negative tests and leaving many people going undiagnosed. In contrast, false-positives occur when a person has other infections- both viral and bacterial.
The Rapid Plasma Reagin test (RPR test) is also a more commonly used nontreponemal test. These tests have to be ‘backed’ by a treponemal antibody test but serves as a great way to monitor the infection while being treated.
Because nontreponemal antibody tests can also detect other conditions, such as auto immune disorders, a treponemal antibody test is necessary for official diagnosis of Syphilis.
What Are The Treponemal Blood Tests That Can Diagnose and Confirm A Syphilis Infection?
The FTA-ABS and TP-PA tests are used to confirm Syphilis infection from a positive RPR result.
These tests are very specific and can be used to eliminate neurosyphilis. When one of these treponemal tests come back positive, they must be followed by a nontreponemal (like RPR test) to distinguish the disease as active from past infections. The antibodies from treponemal tests will always remain in the body, even after treatment but results from the nontreponemal tests can help monitor treatment and its effectiveness. Those antibodies will disappear over time as the infection is treated.
Since there is no vaccine for preventing the syphilis infection altogether, it is important to practice safe sex or abstinence. However, even taking safe sex measures cannot fully prevent the transmission of any sexually transmitted disease. If you are sexually active, getting screened and tested for STD’s is important to your health and the health and safety of your sexual partner. Protect them and yourself by getting yearly testing. Testing can be ordered by a physician or ordered by the patient privately online.
To get started, order your syphillis test online.