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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
INTERNATIONAL: Rapid, Point-of-Care Tests for Syphilis: The Future of Diagnosis
Staff Writer
March 7, 2013
Science Daily (03.27.12) Aids Weekly Plus

Scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) report they have confirmed that rapid and point-of-care (POC) finger-prick syphilis tests work as well as laboratory tests that require one to three weeks to process. RI-MUHC’s Dr. Nitika Pant Pai recommends that rapid and POC tests should be the frontline syphilis screening method in areas of the world where healthcare resources are scarce. Frontline healthcare workers can administer the rapid and POC tests to individuals and confirm results from a simple finger-stick sample in 20 minutes, whereas conventional laboratory-based testing requires trained staff, chemicals, and a constant supply of electricity. The short turnaround time for rapid and POC testing allows doctors to identify patients who need immediate care while waiting for confirmatory test results. Approximately 90 percent of infected people are not aware they have syphilis—described by CDC as the “great imitator”—because the symptoms are similar to other diseases. Approximately 12 million new syphilis cases are diagnosed every year, and up to 50 million people are receiving treatment worldwide for syphilis. The bacterium Treponema pallidum causes syphilis, which is spread between sex partners via contact with a syphilitic sore. Mothers also can transmit syphilis to their babies congenitally during pregnancy or childbirth. Yalda Jafari, a member of the RI-MUHC research team, urged all pregnant women to have syphilis screening during the first trimester to prevent stillbirths, early delivery, and mother-to-child transmission of syphilis. The full report, “Are Treponema pallidum Specific Rapid and Point-of-Care Tests for Syphilis Accurate Enough for Screening in Resource Limited Settings? Evidence from a Meta-Analysis,” was published online in the journal PLoS ONE (2013; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054695).