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Diagnosis of syphilis by polymerase chain reaction and molecular typing of Treponema pallidum

Šmajs, Davida; Matějková, Petraa; Woznicová, Vladanab; Vališová, Zuzanab

Reviews in Medical Microbiology: December 2006 - Volume 17 - Issue 4 - p 93–99
doi: 10.1097/MRM.0b013e3280ad4150
Diagnostic Microbiology

Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum is the causative agent of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that still represents a major world health problem. Serology, the standard laboratory method used for the diagnosis of syphilis, has several limitations that preclude reliable diagnosis of syphilis in some cases. Direct methods of syphilis diagnosis are suboptimal because of low sensitivity and low specificity (microscopy), or because of costly and delayed test results (rabbit infectivity test). Recent status of PCR-based syphilis diagnosis and molecular typing schemes are reviewed. PCR detection of Treponema pallidum in various clinical samples showed high sensitivity, specificity and potential for molecular typing. PCR diagnosis is therefore considered an important auxiliary laboratory test for syphilis. Typing of Treponema pallidum strains isolated from patients will stimulate epidemiological studies of syphilis and will allow discrimination between re-infection and reactivation of infection.

From the aDepartment of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic

bDepartment of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University and St. Anne's University Hospital, Brno, Czech Republic.

Received 1 November, 2006

Accepted 14 November, 2006

Correspondence to D. Šmajs, Department of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Kamenice 5, Building A6, 625 00 Brno, Czech Republic. Tel: +420 549 497 496; fax: +420 549 491 327; e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.