Preventive Services Task Force recommends syphilis testing for all at-risk adults, adolescents
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that typically presents itself with a painless, non-itching skin ulceration. This, in turn, can turn into a rash, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
High-risk groups for syphilis include men who have sex with men and people with HIV infection.
Syphilis testing is typically done in two phases: a nontreponemal test such as a rapid plasma reagin (RPR) or Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test -- then, if results are positive, a treponemal antibody detection test. If both are positive, the patients have had a past or have a present syphilis infection.
"Fortunately, in the case of syphilis, there are accurate tests available for screening and effective therapies that can cure syphilis, prevent further complications and prevent the spread of infection," USPSTF member Dr. Ann Kurth said.
All sexually active people can decrease their risk of contracting syphilis by using latex condoms, having sex with only one partner or abstaining from sex altogether.
"Fifteen years ago, syphilis was an uncommon diagnosis in this country," Dr. Jennifer Frost, medical director for the American Association of Family Physicians' Health of the Public and Science Division, said. "The rate has more than doubled since then, particularly in gay and bisexual men. And although the USPSTF's recommendation mirrors its 2004 recommendation, we need to have heightened awareness about whether our patients are at risk, so that they can be informed about the importance of prevention, screened and treated, if their tests are positive."
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