Comparison of automated treponemal and nontreponemal test algorithms as first-line syphilis screening assays

Ann Lab Med. 2016 Jan;36(1):23-7. doi: 10.3343/alm.2016.36.1.23.


Background: Automated Mediace Treponema pallidum latex agglutination (TPLA) and Mediace rapid plasma reagin (RPR) assays are used by many laboratories for syphilis diagnosis. This study compared the results of the traditional syphilis screening algorithm and a reverse algorithm using automated Mediace RPR or Mediace TPLA as first-line screening assays in subjects undergoing a health checkup.

Methods: Samples from 24,681 persons were included in this study. We routinely performed Mediace RPR and Mediace TPLA simultaneously. Results were analyzed according to both the traditional algorithm and reverse algorithm. Samples with discordant results on the reverse algorithm (e.g., positive Mediace TPLA, negative Mediace RPR) were tested with Treponema pallidum particle agglutination (TPPA).

Results: Among the 24,681 samples, 30 (0.1%) were found positive by traditional screening, and 190 (0.8%) by reverse screening. The identified syphilis rate and overall false-positive rate according to the traditional algorithm were lower than those according to the reverse algorithm (0.07% and 0.05% vs. 0.64% and 0.13%, respectively). A total of 173 discordant samples were tested with TPPA by using the reverse algorithm, of which 140 (80.9%) were TPPA positive.

Conclusions: Despite the increased false-positive results in populations with a low prevalence of syphilis, the reverse algorithm detected 140 samples with treponemal antibody that went undetected by the traditional algorithm. The reverse algorithm using Mediace TPLA as a screening test is more sensitive for the detection of syphilis.

Keywords: Automated RPR; Automated TPLA; Reverse algorithm; Syphilis; Syphilis screening algorithm.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Latex Fixation Tests
  • Reagins / blood
  • Syphilis / diagnosis*
  • Syphilis / drug therapy
  • Syphilis / microbiology
  • Treponema pallidum / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Reagins