Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Syphilis can be diagnosed by testing samples of:
- Blood. Blood tests can confirm the presence of antibodies that the body produces to fight infection. The antibodies to the bacteria that cause syphilis remain in your body for years, so the test can be used to determine a current or past infection.
- Fluid from sores. Your doctor may scrape a small sample of cells from a sore to be analyzed by microscope in a lab. This test can be done only during primary or secondary syphilis, when sores are present. The scraping can reveal the presence of bacteria that cause syphilis.
- Cerebral spinal fluid. If it's suspected that you have nervous system complications of syphilis, your doctor may also suggest collecting a sample of cerebrospinal fluid through a procedure called a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
- Hook EW. Syphilis. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/218862952-3/0/1492/1185.html#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-2805-5..50345-1--cesec16_14680. Accessed Sept. 16, 2010.
- Syphilis fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm. Accessed Sept. 17, 2010.
- Sexually transmitted diseases surveillance, 2008: Syphilis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats08/syphilis.htm. Accessed Sept. 16, 2010.
- Birnbaumer DM, et al. Syphilis. In: Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00096-7--s0015&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&sid=1054738467&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00096-7--s0040&uniqId=218994117-4#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00096-7--s0040. Accessed Sept. 17, 2010.
- Johnson KE. Overview of TORCH infections. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 27, 2010.
- Marra CM. Neurosyphilis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 17, 2010.