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Serology is a blood test often done to identify antibodies in the patient's blood serum and confirm the presence of infection. Syphilis is one of the infectious diseases that can be transmitted sexually, although it can also be transmitted through blood transfusion and from infected mother to fetus. The organism involved is the Treponema pallidum, which can penetrate broken skin and mucous membranes that come in contact with it. When the organism enters the body, the immune system often releases specific antibodies into the blood to fight off the infection. Syphilis serology, therefore is a diagnostic test that can detect the presence of antibodies against syphilis in a person suspected of having the disease.
Patients with syphilis usually develop lesions in the genital tract, which is often followed by non-specific symptoms like fever, headache, rashes, and joint pains. Most of these patients have a history of sexual intercourse. When doctors suspect a syphilis infection in patients, they may request a syphilis serology test to help in the diagnosis. An adequate amount of blood is then extracted from the patient's arm vein and processed in the laboratory for a syphilis serology test.
A variety of tests can be used to detect syphilis serolgy. The most common test for syphilis is therRapid plasma reagin (RPR) test, which is commonly performed as a screening test for syphilis and in monitoring patients' response to treatment. When this test is positive, another test, the fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test may also be performed for further confirmation. Patients with active infections, as well as those with healed diseases, often have positive results with this test. On the other hand, the RPR test usually becomes negative when the infection has been treated.
These syphilis serology tests may not show positive results during the very early stage of infection or during the incubation period of the organism. There are also some individuals who do not have syphilis but may get positive results in the syphilis serology test. These are called false positive results and are often due to other diseases such as chicken pox, tuberculosis, leprosy, and rheumatoid arthritis, among many others. Pregnancy and heroin use can also cause positive results.
Physicians also may order syphilis serology tests for pregnant women and people being screened blood for transfusions. These are usually done to prevent infected mothers from infecting their child and to prevent blood donors from giving infected blood to patients who need blood transfusions. Couples planning on getting married may also get a syphilis serology test to ensure the health of each partner.