Background: Most syphilis point-of-care (POC) tests detect treponemal antibodies, which persist after successful treatment. Subsequent POC tests are positive, despite no active infection, and can lead to unnecessary treatment. We evaluated a new POC test, incorporating a nontreponemal component, to distinguish active from past infection.
Methods: Sera stored at 2 Australian laboratories were tested with DPP Screen and Confirm Assay. Treponemal and nontreponemal test lines were compared to corresponding conventional treponemal and nontreponemal reference test results: immunoassays and rapid plasma reagin (RPR), respectively, with RPR quantification by endpoint titration. POC test outcome concordance with conventional test results was assessed according to serological and clinical categories.
Results: Among 1005 serum samples tested, DPP treponemal line sensitivity was 89.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 87.3%-91.9%) and specificity was 99.3% (95% CI, 97.0%-99.9%). DPP nontreponemal line sensitivity was 94.2% (95% CI, 91.8%-96.0%) and specificity was 62.2% (95% CI, 57.5%-66.6%). DPP test outcome (pair of test lines) was concordant with both reference test results for 94.3% of 404 high-titer infections, 90.1% of 121 low-titer infections, 27.5% of 211 past/treated infections, and 78.1% of 242 infections classified as not syphilis. Among 211 past/treated infections, 49.8% were incorrectly identified as active infection and a further 22.8% as not syphilis.
Conclusions: DPP test use would result in identification of >93% of active syphilis infections, whereas just over half of past infections would be diagnosed as past or not syphilis, avoiding unnecessary treatment compared with other POC tests. This may be at the expense of missing some active infections; thus, its potential benefits will depend on the prevalence of past vs active infection in a population.
Keywords: diagnosis; point-of-care test; syphilis.
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