Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test
The FTA-ABS test is a blood test to detect antibodies to the bacteria Treponema pallidum, which causes syphilis.
This test is used to confirm whether a positive screening test for syphilis means there is a true infection.
Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.
Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.
Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
No special preparation is necessary.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
This test is used routinely to confirm whether a positive screening test for syphilis (either VDRL or RPR ) reflects true infection with syphilis. It may also be done when either primary or tertiary syphilis are suspected and the initial screening tests are negative, because screening tests during these stages of syphilis may be falsely negative.
Hook EW III. Syphilis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 340.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Workowski KA, Berman SM. Diseases characterized by genital ulcers. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2006. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2006 Aug 4;55(RR-11):14-30.
Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 22.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885