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Sexual Health

Syphilis

Labcorp offers timely, accurate and convenient screening options that can help curb rising STI rates in the U.S.

Syphilis cases on the rise in the United States

After a long period of decline in the U.S., syphilis cases continue to rise.1

The national rate of primary and secondary syphilis has increased almost every year since 2001. In 2019, a total of 38,992 cases of syphilis were reported, reflecting a 11.2% increase compared to 2018.1

Congenital syphilis has similarly increased in prevalence. Preliminary CDC data showed 2,100 cases of newborn syphilis in 2020.2 In 2010, 29 U.S. states reported one or more cases. In 2019, the number of states reporting congenital syphilis cases rose to 43.3

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Doctor talking with patients

Screening patients for syphilis

Per the CDC-recommended algorithm, initial testing is done with a treponemal assay (EIA or CIA) followed by a quantitative nontreponemal test for confirmation (quantitative RPR or other nontreponemal test). Discordant samples are resolved on the basis of a TPPA assay.

All positive nontreponemal tests must be quantified at time of treatment, as titers are used to monitor treatment success.4

 

Testing recommendations per the CDC

  • Couple dancing in a room

    Women and men who have sex with women 

     

    • Screen asymptomatic adults at increased risk (i.e., history of incarceration or transactional sex work, geography, race/ethnicity and being a male younger than 29 years) for syphilis infection.5
  • Pregnant woman reading a book

    Pregnant women

     

    • All pregnant women at the first prenatal visit
       
    • Retest at 28 weeks’ gestation and at delivery if at high risk. High-risk individuals include those who live in a community with high syphilis morbidity or is at risk for syphilis acquisition during pregnancy, uses drugs or has STIs during pregnancy. High-risk individuals also include those with multiple sexual partners, a new partner or a partner with STIs)5
  • homosexual couple doing breakfast on the kitchen togetherness

    Men who have sex with men (MSM)

     

    • At least annually for sexually active MSM5
       
    • Every 3 to 6 months if at increased risk5
  • Lesbian couple at home snuggling under blanket

    Transgender and gender diverse people

     

    • Consider screening at least annually based on reported sexual behaviors and exposure5
Couple dancing in a room

Women and men who have sex with women 

 

  • Screen asymptomatic adults at increased risk (i.e., history of incarceration or transactional sex work, geography, race/ethnicity and being a male younger than 29 years) for syphilis infection.5
Pregnant woman reading a book

Pregnant women

 

  • All pregnant women at the first prenatal visit
     
  • Retest at 28 weeks’ gestation and at delivery if at high risk. High-risk individuals include those who live in a community with high syphilis morbidity or is at risk for syphilis acquisition during pregnancy, uses drugs or has STIs during pregnancy. High-risk individuals also include those with multiple sexual partners, a new partner or a partner with STIs)5
homosexual couple doing breakfast on the kitchen togetherness

Men who have sex with men (MSM)

 

  • At least annually for sexually active MSM5
     
  • Every 3 to 6 months if at increased risk5
Lesbian couple at home snuggling under blanket

Transgender and gender diverse people

 

  • Consider screening at least annually based on reported sexual behaviors and exposure5

Syphilis screening made simple

On December 20, 2021, CDC published a letter acknowledging the FDA alert of the potential for false positives of RPR results and reminding the healthcare community of the importance of confirming reactive RPR results with treponemal antibody testing.5 False-reactive RPR test results have historically been observed in individuals with autoimmune disorders, systemic infections unrelated to syphilis, (e.g., tuberculosis, rickettsial diseases, HIV, and endocarditis) as well as following immunization (particularly for smallpox) and during pregnancy. 6

The CDC-recommended algorithms for the screening and diagnosis of syphilis include both treponemal and non-treponemal assays. Labcorp offers both the Reverse syphilis screening algorithm and the traditional syphilis screening algorithm.

Traditional screening algorithm

Test number: 012005

 

Reverse screening algorithm

Test number: 082345

 

* Please note, CDC does not recommend one algorithm over the other.

Contact us to learn more about Labcorp’s Women’s Health Testing and Services

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References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Syphilis – CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed) https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm; accessed September 20, 2021.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Syphilis-Surveillance Supplement 2016-2019 Technical Notes. July 2021.
  3. National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Division of STD Prevention-Congenital Syphilis Preliminary 2020 Data, September 2021.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Syphilis Pocket Guide for Providers, accessed September 20, 2021.
  5. Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/default.htm. Accessed July 29, 2021.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Partners in Prevention letter. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/std/fda-alert-12-20-2021.pdf. December 20, 2021. Accessed March 2022.