Accelerating worldwide syphilis screening through rapid testing: a systematic review

Lancet Infect Dis. 2010 Jun;10(6):381-6. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(10)70092-X.


Syphilis is a persistent public health issue in many low-income countries that have limited capacity for testing, which traditionally relies on a sensitive non-treponemal test and then a specific treponemal test. However, the development of a new rapid treponemal test provides an opportunity to scale up syphilis screening in many settings where traditional tests are unavailable. This systematic review of immunochromatographic strip (ICS) syphilis tests describes the sensitivity and specificity in two important clinical settings: sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics and antenatal clinics. Clinical data from more than 22 000 whole blood, plasma, or fingerstick ICS tests obtained at STI or antenatal clinics were retrieved from 15 studies. ICS syphilis tests have a high sensitivity (median 0.86, interquartile range 0.75-0.94) and a higher specificity (0.99, 0.98-0.99), both comparable with non-treponemal screening test characteristics. Further research evaluating ICS syphilis tests among primary syphilis cases and among patients infected with HIV will be essential for the effective roll-out of syphilis screening programmes.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Syphilis / diagnosis*
  • Time Factors