Q. What is the difference between FTA-ABS test and VDRL test?

Answered by
Dr. Rakesh Kumar Bahunuthula
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Dec 19, 2021

Hello doctor,

I recently did an FTA-ABS test for syphilis. It showed reactive with a titer 1:1. But after a week and a half, I took a VDRL test, and it was non-reactive. Now I am confused. The doctor was not so clear while explaining the difference in the result. Kindly help.




Welcome to

Thanks for writing in, and I understand your concern.

If FTA-ABS (fluorescent treponemal antibody test absorption) test is positive, it will remain positive for lifetime. It suggests that you have been infected with syphilis. It could have been in the past or present. However, VDRL (venereal disease laboratory test) suggests present disease activity. VDRL non-reactive means, at present, infection is not active.

Hello doctor,

Thank you for the reply.

I never had a reactive syphilis test in the past. That is why I am a bit confused. And now, the VDRL is non-reactive after one week of reactive FTA-ABS.



Welcome back to

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is usually a consequence of unprotected sexual activity. VDRL reflects disease activity in syphilis, and titers above 1:8 are considered significant. FTA-ABS test is a specific test that detects antibodies developed against the bacteria after an infection. Hence it remains positive for a lifetime as antibodies are present in the body for the entire life. If you have never been treated for syphilis, you could repeat the VDRL test after four weeks and 12 weeks and check for a rising trend. If increasing, I suggest taking the appropriate antibiotic.


Was this answer helpful?


Same symptoms doesn’t mean you have the same problem. Consult a doctor now!

Related Questions:
I was misdiagnosed to have syphilis and had treatment. What to do?

So, it is the first stage of syphilis ... TPHA (Treponema pallidum hemagglutination) is a test to detect treponemal antibodies, which are produced by the body against the bug that causes syphilis ......   Read full

My VDRL is positive with reactive TPHA result. Kindly help.

Hello doctor, In a routine VDRL test, I tested positive ... HIV was negative, while the TPH test was reactive ...   Read full

Though I had treatment for syphilis, why does my result remain reactive?

However, if VDRL is still positive, then you need to get retreated with injection Benzathine penicillin 24 million units single intramuscular dose after testing from the local doctor ...   Read full

Also Read Answers From:

ideaComprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Also Read

Monkeypox Virus - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications, and Prevention
Monkeypox is a zoonotic viral disease. This virus got its name as it was first noticed in laboratory monkeys in the late...  Read more»
Tomato Fever - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
Tomato fever is an unidentified and fast-spreading type of viral infection seen in young children. Scroll down to know m...  Read more»
Histrionic Personality Disorder - Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Histrionic personality disorder causes variations in the thinking ability of a person. Read this article to know more.  Read more»

Ask your health query to a doctor online?

Ask a Venereologist Now

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.