Syphilis can be detected by a rapid,point-of-care test as accurately as it can be by conventional laboratory tests,according to the findings of an international study.
The research team,led by scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal,published its findings in PLoS ONE last month and has called for a change in approach to syphilis testing. There is a need to embrace rapid and PoC tests for syphilis in global settings, Dr Nitika Pant Pai,the studys senior and corresponding author,clinical researcher at RI-MUHC and assistant professor at McGill,told The Indian Express.
Conventional laboratory-based tests can take up to three weeks to deliver results. These tests require chemical agents,trained staff and a continuous supply of electricity,which are not readily available in some parts of the world. PoC tests can be performed on a simple,finger-stick sample,one patient at a time,with the results communicated to the patient within 20 minutes.
Syphilis may be transmitted between sexual partners and also transmitted from mother to foetus during pregnancy or at birth. Timely screening and treatment in first trimester is extremely important for pregnant women to prevent stillbirths,pre-term births and mother-to-child transmission of syphilis, says Pant Pai.
Fifty million people worldwide are being treated for syphilis; 12 million new cases are diagnosed every year. However,an estimated 90 per cent of those infected do not know it.
According to NACO officials,syphilis earlier used to affect about 8 per cent of pregnant women in India; this is now less than 1 per cent. Among female sex workers,it affects about 4 per cent as against 30 per cent till a few years ago.