As far as STD is concerned, tests are vital to treating infections and diseases for without these tests, treatment becomes more of a presumptive activity than a definitive action.

VDRL Test is one of the popular tests available to the world for treating syphilis. Its full meaning is Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test. The laboratory is no more called VDRL, but the test which was widely developed there retained the name.

History has it that the present day VDRL test was developed in 1946 by Harris, Rosenberg, and Reidel. It is a non-treponemal test for syphilis which is used to determine the presence of syphilis in persons exposed to a high risk of contracting the infection.

The test targets for antibodies produced by the body’s immune system against syphilis but in some cases, the VDRL test result turns out positive for persons who may not have symptoms of syphilis. Note that VDRL does not look for the bacteria causing syphilis.

Doctors use this test to screen their patients of syphilis. The test can also be done by persons independent of doctors' presence or monitoring. With respect to the VDRL test, the result is accurate and in addition to that, they are very affordable.

Again, it should be known that the VDRL test is for screening those suspected to be exposed to syphilis infection by scanning for antibodies released in response to syphilis. It can also be used for monitoring a person who is on treatment for syphilis. To look for syphilis, the VDRL test may not be as accurate as other test techniques designed to check for Treponema pallidum in the case of a known syphilis infection.

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When And On Who Is The VDRL Test Used?

  • The presence of a painless sore on your mouth or genitals, the swelling of the area where the sore erupted from and the appearance of skin rashes on a person can facilitate the need to go for a VDRL test.
  • Pregnant women who are from syphilis-endemic regions or who have symptoms of an infection that looks like syphilis are tested with the VDRL test. More so, it has been passed into health law for every pregnant woman to be screened of syphilis regardless of being exposed to the infection or not. The VDRL test is ideal for such a procedure.
  • Persons who tested positive to other sexually transmitted diseases are screened for syphilis infection.
  • Commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men, sexually active teenagers, young adults, and older persons who have multiple sexual partners are tested for syphilis with the VDRL test.
  • Those already treated for syphilis are routinely monitored with the VDRL test, especially for a re-infection. Those still on treatment are monitored with the VDRL test to check their bodies' response to the treatment plan.

How The VDRL Test Is Done

For the test, a venous blood sample or spinal fluid is needed. The blood sample is gotten from the deep vein located at the joint of the elbow or the back of the hand. In serious cases, both the blood sample and the spinal fluid are taken to perform the test on. Afterward, the sample will be sent, refrigerated, to the laboratory for tests. With the exception of rapid test results that come out within minutes, the result of the VDRL test for syphilis done in the laboratory takes hours to process.

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Interpreting The Test Result

Results usually come out positive or negative.

A positive VDRL test result indicates that you may have syphilis. This demands a specific treponemal syphilis test to be carried out on you to confirm that the positive result is true.

A negative VDRL test result means that you do not have syphilis.

Going by the time between one's exposure to syphilis and the time of testing with VDRL, it is possible that if the test is done earlier before the body's immune system forms antibodies to syphilis, the test result could come out negative, yet, the person is, however, infected with syphilis. In medical terms, it is called a false-negative result. The VDRL test could give such a result.

The presence of other diseases that makes the body's immune system to release similar antibodies with those of syphilis can give a false-positive result where a person is suggested to be infected with syphilis whereas he is not. Such diseases that trigger the release of similar antibodies with syphilis are HIV, Lyme disease, tuberculosis, malaria, and systemic lupus erythematosus. A person who injects drugs can also have the same occurrence of a false-positive VDRL test result.


The VDRL Test is relatively accurate and useful in testing for syphilis before more specific tests for syphilis are done. It is necessary to make it a habit of getting tested for syphilis if you belong to the category of persons who should be tested. Early detection, even with a rapid test kit, is essential to saving your life. Syphilis can get too complicated to handle if/when it is allowed to progresses.

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