An oral fluid test for syphilis

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We have developed a time-resolved fluorescence immunoassay to detect antibodies to Treponema pallidum recombinant antigens in oral fluid specimens. Using an ‘Oracol’ swab, oral fluid was collected from 34 subjects with a serological diagnosis of syphilis and 97 seronegative controls. Using a cut-off of three standard deviations over control mean, the sensitivity and specificity of the assay in all subjects with positive syphilis serology was 76.5% and 97.9%, respectively. In those with early syphilis, the sensitivity and specificity of the assay was 100% and 97.9%. In a non-outbreak situation, screening clinic attendees for syphilis using oral fluid specimens is potentially useful when collection of blood is not practicable. In addition, it may have much to offer in outreach projects and epidemiological investigations.

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