Syphilis is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is a bacterial infection spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected person. Syphilis develops in stages that can last for weeks, months, or even years. The stages may be separated by long periods of apparent good health.
Syphilis usually starts with a small, painless sore, called a chancre, on the genitals, anus, or mouth. In the next stage, you may have flu-like symptoms and/or a rash. Later stages of syphilis can damage the brain, heart, spinal cord, and other organs. Syphilis tests can help diagnose syphilis in the early stages of infection, when the disease is easiest to treat.
Other names: rapid plasma reagin (RPR), venereal disease Research laboratory (VDRL), fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-ABS) test, agglutination assay (TPPA), darkfield microscopy