Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

The Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test is a common blood test that is used in the diagnosis of syphilis, an STI that is caused by a bacterium known as Treponema pallidum. In the medical field, the VDRL is a widely known test to diagnose patients with Syphilis, but there are a lot of misconception about the test. In this article, will discuss about the commons myths that surround VDRL test and present concrete facts for readers.

What is the VDRL Test?

The VDRL test is also known as a non-treponemal test which measures the immune system response in the form of antibodies to bacteria that cause syphilis. It is also widely used in screening syphilis before a definitive examination and can be used in assessing the rate of treatment. This test is done by identifying antibodies present in the blood sample which is usually taken from the individual suspected of the rheumatic disease.

Common Myths and Misconceptions about the VDRL Test

Myth 1: The VDRL Test is the Only Test for Syphilis

A popular myth is that the VDRL is the only blood test to use for diagnosing syphilis. Indeed, the VDRL test is one of the essential diagnostic tools but not the single one that aids in the diagnosis of this infection. There are other tests, for instance the Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) test and treponemal tests which include the Fluorescent Treponemal Antibody Absorption (FTA-ABS) test and the Treponema pallidum particle agglutination (TP-PA) test. These tests are very useful when they are combined with the VDRL of the test and serve to enhance a diagnosis of the infection.

Myth 2: A Positive VDRL Test Always Means You Have Syphilis

A positive VDRL test results may sound like a shocker, but it is not an absolute indication you have the syphilis disease. VDRL test is a screening test that shows antibodies that might be present because of different diseases that is why it has high percentage of false positive results. Other factors that can help cause a false-positive VDRL test include lupus, pneumonia, malaria and even pregnancy. As a result, a positive signal typically leads to a secondary treponemal test for a definite diagnosis.

Myth 3: A Negative VDRL Test Means You Don’t Have Syphilis

On the other hand, a negative VDRL test is not sufficient to effectively eliminate the presence of syphilis. In other cases, early primary syphilis may not have resulted in the presence of significant levels of antibodies that would be needed to be diagnosed by a test, thus resulting in a negative response. Likewise, a patient in the later stages of the disease might test negative due to low levels of antibodies present in the blood. Therefore, if syphilis is still suspected the patient should undergo further test and clinical assessment.

Myth 4: The VDRL Test is 100% Accurate

Like any other medical test, the VDRL test is also not 100% foolproof and can sometimes give out false negative results. Some of its advantages are that it serves as a screening test but lacks the sensitivity and specificity of a good diagnostic tool. Sensitivity is a measure of the ability of the test to highlight those with the disease, while specificity is the ability of the test to exclude those with the disease. It is crucial to understand that VDRL test results depend on the stage of syphilis, the presence of other diseases, and some aspects of the test itself. This is why it is so important to confirm that the test used is indeed producing a clear and correct result.

Myth 5: You Can’t Get Tested for Syphilis if You Don’t Have Symptoms

In general, syphilis may be, in its early and even latent phases, entirely without symptoms. A common misconception, among many people, is that if they are not feeling any discomfort, there is no way they could be ill. This is a very misleading assumption because people who are healthy since they have no symptoms of the virus, they can pass the virus to others. Testing should be especially frequent among those with a higher chance of contracting an STI because early diagnosis and treatment significantly decrease the likelihood of transmitting the disease and the development of complications.

Myth 6: The VDRL Test is Painful and Invasive

Many individuals are apprehensive towards certain kinds of tests as they believe that passing through it would mean undergoing a painful or invasive procedure. Though, the VDRL test is very painless and it only requires a small amount of blood, most preferably vein blood from your arm. It is not invasive, and there may be slight discomfort at par with that experienced during a normal blood sampling. It is not invasive and is not very uncomfortable making it feasible for most people.

Myth 7: Only Promiscuous People Need the VDRL Test

STIs come with stereotype that only those who engage in extra marital affairs or those who are known to have many partners need to go for a test. Syphilis is not restricted to those who have multiple partners but can happen to anyone who is sexually active. HIV and AIDS education, condom use, sexually transmitted disease examinations, and regarding sexual partners with candor are important for everyone and not just people with more than one partner.

Myth 8: Once Treated, There’s No Need for Follow-Up VDRL Tests

Another common misunderstanding is that after the primary treatment syphilis does not require follow-up screenings. Thus, follow-up VDRL tests are necessary to determine whether the treatment has been effective or not. Such tests assist in tracking the conversion of antibody levels, which is suggestive of effective treatment. Sometimes, further treatment may be required even if there is an evident decline in the antibodies levels. Follow-up tests are also very important to determine any signs of re-infection in future.

The Importance of Accurate Information

Eradicating such myths and misconceptions is crucial for the health of the population. In general, correct information about the VDRL test and syphilis in particular contributes to a reduction of prejudice, increased awareness of the test, as well as early diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to many complications if not diagnosed and treated in its early stages.


The VDRL test is a helpful test in detecting and combating syphilis; however, VDRL test is crucial for this fight to be understood within the confines of its use. This article focuses on explaining some myths and misconceptions that are usually accompanied by the VDRL test for deciphering the disease and its treatments of syphilis. Therefore, testing for STDs, and particularly HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, at least once should be advocated for all persons with risk factors, and clients should have an appreciation of the results of any HIV test.