Methods: A cohort study from 2007 through 2013 was conducted using a provincial database of syphilis testing in adults. Patients with genital lesions who underwent PCR and serology testing (within -7 to +28 days of PCR testing) at two regional specialized sexually transmitted infection clinics were included. The primary outcome was the proportion of PCR positivity. Test characteristics were compared between multiple serologic tests to PCR testing. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) PCR testing was also performed due to similarity of lesion appearance. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated as the percent of results PCR positive divided by serology positive and PCR negative divided by serology negative, respectively.
Results: 3600 patients aged ≥ 18 years with genital lesions (clinically suspected to be syphilis) had PCR and serology testing performed. Of these, 114 (3.0%) were PCR positive. There were 14 patients who were PCR positive but had negative serology. Excluding those positive for HSV (1532; 43%), a total of 109 cases of primary syphilis occurred in the study period. 105 positive by PCR and 94 positive by serology. Our calculated sensitivity and specificity of 95.7% and 99.3%, respectively, are consistent with previously published data. Using a 2014 provincial estimated incidence of 3.3 cases/100,000, negative predicted value of syphilis PCR testing was 99.9% and similar to published values.
Conclusion: In our large cohort study spanning seven years, PCR was highly sensitive and specific, with an excellent NPV in the diagnosis of primary syphilis. We recommend PCR testing as an adjunct to serology to aid in syphilis diagnosis in an outbreak setting.
B. Lee, None
R. Read, None
S. Fathima, None
K. Fonseca, None
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