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Infectious agent antigen detection by immunofluorescent technique; Treponema pallidum

CPT4 code

Name of the Procedure:

Infectious Agent Antigen Detection by Immunofluorescent Technique; Treponema pallidum (IFA Test for Syphilis)


The test identifies the presence of Treponema pallidum, the bacterium responsible for syphilis, using a technique known as immunofluorescence. It involves tagging the bacteria with a fluorescent dye and observing it under a special microscope.


The purpose of this test is to diagnose syphilis by detecting the antigens of Treponema pallidum. The goal is to confirm the presence of the bacterium to provide appropriate treatment and prevent further complications.


  • Unexplained skin sores or rashes
  • Suspected sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Positive results from initial syphilis screening tests (e.g., VDRL, RPR)
  • Sexual contact with a partner diagnosed with syphilis
  • Symptoms suggestive of syphilis (e.g., genital ulcers, lymphadenopathy)


  • No specific fasting or dietary restrictions are required.
  • Inform your doctor about any medications or supplements you are taking.
  • A preliminary blood test might be conducted to screen for syphilis antibodies.

Procedure Description

  1. A sample, typically blood or tissue from a sore, is collected.
  2. The sample is treated with fluorescently labeled antibodies that specifically bind to Treponema pallidum antigens.
  3. The treated sample is then viewed under a fluorescence microscope.
  4. The presence of glowing cells indicates a positive result for Treponema pallidum.


The procedure typically takes around 1-2 hours, including sample preparation and analysis.


The procedure is usually performed in a hospital laboratory or a specialized diagnostic center.


  • Medical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
  • Pathologist or microbiologist for interpretation of results

Risks and Complications

  • Minimal risks, primarily associated with the sample collection process:
    • Mild discomfort or bruising at the blood draw site
    • Minor risk of infection at the sample collection site


  • Accurate identification of Treponema pallidum bacteria
  • Enables timely diagnosis and treatment of syphilis
  • Helps prevent the progression and complications of untreated syphilis


  • No specific recovery period needed
  • Follow-up appointments may be scheduled to discuss results and treatment options


  • Other diagnostic tests for syphilis:
    • VDRL (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test)
    • RPR (Rapid Plasma Reagin test)
    • FTA-ABS (Fluorescent Treponemal Antibody Absorption test)
  • Pros and cons:
    • VDRL and RPR are less specific but easier and quicker
    • FTA-ABS is very specific but more complex and costly

Patient Experience

  • Minimal discomfort during sample collection
  • Slight waiting period for test results
  • No pain during the test itself; comfort measures rarely needed
  • Emotional relief or distress depending on diagnostic outcomes and subsequent treatment steps

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