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The CSF-VDRL test is used to diagnose neurosyphilis. It looks for substances called reagins, which are sometimes produced by the body in reaction to the syphilis-causing bacteria.
See also: VDRL
Venereal disease research laboratory slide test - CSF
A sample of spinal fluid is needed. For information on how this is taken, see: Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
The CSF-VDRL test is done to diagnose syphilis in the brain or spinal cord. Brain and spinal cord involvement is usually a sign of late stage syphilis.
Blood screening tests (VDRL and RPR) are better at detecting middle stage (secondary) syphilis.
A negative result is normal.
However, false-negatives can occur. This means you can have syphilis even if this test is normal. Therefore, a negative test does not always rule out the disease. Other signs and tests may be used to diagnose neurosyphilis.
A positive result is abnormal and is a sign of neurosyphilis.
Tramont EC. Treponema pallidum (Syphilis). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 238.
Fletcher JJ, Nathan BR. Cerebrospinal fluid and intracranial pressure. In: Goetz, CG, eds. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 26.