Syphilis serology in patients with primary syphilis and non-treponemal sexually transmitted diseases in southern Africa

Genitourin Med. 1991 Apr;67(2):129-32. doi: 10.1136/sti.67.2.129.


The reactivity of a non-specific reagin (RPR) test and a specific treponemal (FTA-ABS) test were determined in 21 patients with primary syphilis, 430 patients with proven non-treponemal genital ulcerations and 719 patients with acute urethritis presenting at a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases in southern Africa. Excluding those 21 cases of primary syphilis, 358 of 1149 tests performed (31%) were found to be reactive by at least one test. The rate of false positive RPR tests was very low (0.02%). Significantly higher rates of seropositivity were detected in patients with genital ulcerations than in patients with acute urethritis. The highest rates were detected among patients with proven lymphogranuloma venereum (34% RPR positive, FTA-ABS positive; 19% RPR negative, FTA-ABS positive). The geometric mean titres (GMT) of positive RPR tests in non-treponemal infections were found to be lower than in darkfield positive cases of genital ulcer disease.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Africa, Southern / epidemiology
  • Genital Diseases, Male / complications
  • Humans
  • Lymphogranuloma Venereum / complications
  • Male
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / complications*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Syphilis / complications*
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • Syphilis Serodiagnosis / methods
  • Ulcer / complications
  • Urethritis / complications


  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic