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Treponema pallidum, the etiological agent of syphilis, induces the production of at least two types of antibodies in human infection, specific (anti-treponemal) and non-specific (non-treponemal).
The Serology lab screens for syphilis by RPR. These non-specific antibodies occur in the majority of cases, however, many other conditions where tissue damage occurs can cause false positive results. Therefore, RPR positives are confirmed by anti-treponemal testing. Because evidence indicates that effective treatment usually yields a decrease in RPR titers, positive RPR specimens are also quantified.
The Serology lab also utilizes the VDRL test to detect lipoidal antibodies present in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to aid in the diagnosis of suspected neurosyphilis.