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      The importance of IgM positivity in laboratory diagnosis of gestational and congenital syphilis

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          From January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011, from 33,753 blood samples for syphilis screening, Treponema pallidum infections were confirmed in 241 pregnant women at the Department of Dermatology, Venerology, and Dermatooncology of Semmelweis University Budapest. In this period, four children born to inadequately or untreated women were confirmed to have connatal syphilis. The height of rapid plasma reagin (RPR) titer was measured to determine the stage of the infection and to examine the success of the antilues therapy. The diagnosis of maternal syphilis infection was confirmed with enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), T. pallidum particle agglutination (TPPA), and IgG and IgM immunoblots. Maternal IgM immunoblot results identify mothers at risk of delivering babies with connatal syphilis better than the height of maternal RPR titer. The standard serological tests are less useful in newborns because of IgG transfer across the placenta. IgM test which depends on the infant’s response has more specificity in diagnosing connatal syphilis.

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          Laboratory diagnosis and interpretation of tests for syphilis.

          The lack of a method for demonstrating the presence of Treponema pallidum by growth necessitates the use of alternative methods. Traditionally, these methods are divided into direct detection methods (animal inoculation, dark-field microscopy, etc.) and serologic tests for the presence of patient antibody against T. pallidum. Serologic methods are further divided into two classes. One class, the nontreponemal tests, detects antibodies to lipoidal antigens present in either the host or T. pallidum; examples are the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory and rapid plasma reagin and tests. Reactivity in these tests generally indicates host tissue damage that may not be specific for syphilis. Because these tests are easy and inexpensive to perform, they are commonly used for screening, and with proper clinical signs they are suggestive of syphilis. The other class of test, the treponemal tests, uses specific treponemal antigens. Confirmation of infection requires a reactive treponemal test. Examples of the treponemal tests are the microhemagglutination assay for antibodies to T. pallidum and the fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test. These tests are more expensive and complicated to perform than the nontreponemal tests. On the horizon are a number of direct antigen, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and PCR techniques. Several of these techniques have shown promise in clinical trials for the diagnosis of congenital syphilis and neurosyphilis that are presently difficult to diagnose.
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            Congenital syphilis after maternal treatment for syphilis during pregnancy.

            The purpose of this study was to characterize pregnancies that were complicated by maternal syphilis that had been treated before delivery in which the newborn infant was diagnosed with congenital syphilis. Prospective surveillance from January 1, 1982, to December 31, 1998, involved women who received antenatal treatment for syphilis. Infants who were born with congenital syphilis were identified by clinical or laboratory criteria. Antepartum factors such as gestational age, time to delivery and VDRL titers were then analyzed and compared with those of women who had been treated and who were delivered of an uninfected infant. The 1:1 match was based on the stage of syphilis and the gestational age at treatment. Forty-three women who received antepartum therapy for syphilis were delivered of an infant with congenital syphilis. Most of the women had been treated for early syphilis; the mean gestational age at treatment was 30.3 weeks. Thirty-five percent of the women were treated >30 days before delivery. Fifty-six percent of the infants were preterm. The 1:1 match revealed that treatment and delivery high VDRL titers, prematurity, and a short interval from treatment to delivery were significantly different in those infants who were diagnosed with congenital syphilis. High VDRL titers at treatment and delivery, earlier maternal stage of syphilis, the interval from treatment to delivery, and delivery of an infant at < or =36 weeks' gestation are associated with the delivery of a congenitally infected neonate after adequate treatment for maternal syphilis.
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              The Laboratory Diagnosis of Syphilis

              Sam Ratnam (2005)
              Syphilis has several clinical manifestations, making laboratory testing a very important aspect of diagnosis. In North America, many unsuspected cases are discovered by laboratory testing. The etiological agent, Treponema pallidum , cannot be cultured, and there is no single optimal alternative test. Serological testing is the most frequently used approach in the laboratory diagnosis of syphilis. The present paper discusses the various serological and alternative tests currently available along with their limitations, and relates their results to the likely corresponding clinical stage of the disease. The need to use multiple tests is discussed, and the importance of quality control is noted. The complexity of syphilis serology means that the services of reference laboratories and clinical experts are often needed.

                Author and article information

                European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology
                Akadémiai Kiadó
                1 June 2012
                13 June 2012
                : 2
                : 2 ( otherID: K022535X4502 )
                : 157-160
                [ 1 ] Semmelweis University Budapest Hungary
                [ 2 ] Semmelweis University Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Dermatooncology Mária utca 41 H-1085 Budapest Hungary
                Original Articles

                Medicine,Immunology,Health & Social care,Microbiology & Virology,Infectious disease & Microbiology
                immunoblot,connatal syphilis,maternal IgM,RPR,fetal IgM


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