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HomeAnswersVenereologyvdrl testIs treponemal test needed three years after sexual contact?

Should I go for treponemal test three years after sexual contact?

The following is an actual conversation between an iCliniq user and a doctor that has been reviewed and published as a Premium Q&A.

Medically reviewed by

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Published At March 11, 2018
Reviewed AtJanuary 23, 2024

Patient's Query

Hi doctor,

I have an sexually transmitted disease (STD) question and hope to have an STD specialist doctor to assist me. I had a sexual contact three years ago and only last month I went for (Venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) nontreponemal test) and is negative. I have read online that after several years or after sometime usually, the result can be negative even if a person had syphilis before. I am afraid it might be a false negative since it was a few years ago. May I know should I test for Treponemal test such as Treponema Pallidum Particle agglutination (TPPA) or Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test (FTA-ABS) to rule out the false negative by VDRL after three years test, I worry it might false negative by VDRL? The negative VDRL test was one month ago and possible exposure was three years ago. Does this mean the person does not have active syphilis infection? Does this also mean it would not proceed to latent or tertiary syphilis that will damage the body such as paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness and dementia?

Answered by Dr. Sushil Kakkar


Welcome to icliniq.com. Yes, sometimes many years after an infection with Treponema pallidum, venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) may turn negative. TPHA (Treponema pallidum hemagglutination) or FTA ABS (fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test) would be confirmatory in that case. You may take this test. Syphilis may slowly progress to the tertiary stage with neurological involvement. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) VDRL is more diagnostic rather than serum VDRL in case of neurological involvement. Was the sexual act three years ago, protected or unprotected? You did not mention that. Regards.

Same symptoms don't mean you have the same problem. Consult a doctor now!

Dr. Sushil Kakkar
Dr. Sushil Kakkar


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