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VDRL (syphilis) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. The syphilis infection is spread through contact with a syphilitic sore. It is also called a chancre. This usually happens during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

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What is a VDRL test? 

The venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test is designed to diagnose whether you have syphilis or not, a sexually transmitted infection (STI). This syphilis is caused by the bacterium called Treponema pallidum. This bacterium infects by penetrating into the lining of the mouth or the genital area.

This VDRL test does not look for the bacteria that causes syphilis. Instead, it identifies the antibodies your body makes in response to the antigens produced by the cells damaged by the bacteria.  Antibodies are a type of protein that is produced by your immune system to fight the invaders like bacteria or toxins. Testing for these antibodies will let your doctor  know whether you have syphilis or not.


You don’t need to have the symptoms of syphilis for this test to be accurate. This is because it checks for antibodies produced as a result of a syphilis infection, the VDRL test can be used regardless of whether you currently have any symptoms.


What are the other names for a VDRL test? 

Other names are: Venereal Disease research laboratory test; Syphilis - VDRL, and Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) test


What are the test parameters included in a VDRL?

There is only one parameter


What does a VDRL test measure? 

The VDRL test is a screening test for syphilis. It measures substances (proteins), called antibodies, which your body may produce if you have come into contact with the bacteria that cause syphilis.


The stages of syphilis are:

Primary syphilis: The first stage that happens two to 12 weeks after exposure to the bacteria. iIt awqs’

AQ[‘s during this stage, a smooth, red sore called a chancre develops on the genitals or in the mouth. This goes away on its own within a few weeks or months. The chancre is small and usually painless, so you may not even know it’s there.

Secondary syphilis: This is about one to six months after the chancre goes away, a rough, and bumpy syphilis rashes appear on the body, usually on your palms and soles (bottoms) of your feet. You may also get flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, sore throat, and muscle aches. These symptoms may come and go for months or years.

Latent syphilis: If the syphilis isn’t been treated during the first two stages, the infection moves into the latent stage. Although there are no outward signs or symptoms of syphilis during this stage, this infection can damage your heart, bones, nerves, and organs. This stage can last many years.

Tertiary (late) syphilis: For many people, the symptoms don’t progress past the latent phase, either because the infection may cure itself or because of symptoms are too mild to notice. About a third of people progress too late in the syphilis phase, which causes a range of serious health problems. 

 These problems occur slowly and include:

  • Brain damage, dementia, and mental health problems.

  • Heart disease.

  • Movement disorders and muscle problems.

  • Nerve damage.

  • Seizures.

  • Tumors are usually on the bones and skin.

  • Vision problems.


Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman passes the infection to her baby.  This syphilis causes severe health problems in babies and children.  It could be fatal. There has been a rise in congenital syphilis in the country and all pregnant women should be screened for the syphilis test.


What’s the normal range? 

Positive / Negative

Who should get a VDRL test? 

Anyone who is sexually active can get syphilis, but some people have an increased risk of becoming infected. Your risk of getting syphilis is higher if you:

  • You have had unprotected sex, especially if you have several partners.

  •  you are HIV positive.

  • You had sex with someone who has tested positive for syphilis.

  • Tested positive for any other STI, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes.

A woman who is pregnant and has syphilis can pass on the infection to her baby. Pregnant women should get tested for syphilis during the pregnancy. This infection can cause death or severe health-related problems in babies and children.


Preparations needed for the VDRL test 

There is no preparation for this test. Fasting is not required for this test


What is the cost of a VDRL test?



What is the type of sample required?

This test requires a blood sample.

Who performs a VDRL blood test?

A healthcare provider called a phlebotomist usually performs blood draws, including those for a VDRL blood test, but any healthcare provider trained in drawing blood can perform this task. The samples are sent to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares the samples and performs the tests on analysers or manually it is done.


What should I expect during my VDRL blood test?

You can expect the experience the following during a blood test, or blood draw:

  • You will sit comfortably on the chair, and a healthcare provider will check your arms for an easily accessible vein. This is the inner part of your arm on the other side of your elbow.

  • Once they have located a vein, they will clean and disinfect the area with an alcohol swab.

  • Then they will insert a small needle into your vein to draw a blood sample. This might feel like a small pinch.

  • After they have inserted the needle, the required amount of blood will collect in a test tube.

  • Once they have collected enough blood to test, they’ll remove the needle and hold a cotton ball or gauze on the site to stop any bleeding.

  • They will place a band-aid over the pricked site, and the blood collection is finished.

This process takes less than five minutes.


What should I expect after my VDRL blood test?

After a healthcare provider has collected the blood sample, they will send it to a laboratory for testing. Once the test results are ready, your healthcare provider will share the results with you.


What are the risks of a VDRL blood test?

These blood tests are very common and don’t carry any significant risks. You may have a  slight pain like an ant bite when the needle gets inserted, and a small bruise may develop there.


When can I expect my VDRL results?

These reports are available via email or WhatsApp within 6 hours of the collection of the blood sample.


What do the results of a VDRL mean?

The normal RPR blood sample shows no antibodies, which are typically produced during infection. However, the doctor can not completely rule out syphilis if they see no antibodies.


Once you have been infected, it takes some time for your immune system to produce antibodies. Then, shortly after an infection, a test may not yet show any antibodies. This is called a "false negative."


The false negatives tend to be more common in the initial and the end stages of infection. Amongst the people who are in the secondary (middle) stage of infection, the RPR test result is nearly always positive.


The RPR test can also produce false-positive results, that is suggesting you have syphilis when you actually don’t. One of the reasons for a false positive is the presence of another disease that produces antibodies similar to the ones produced during the syphilis infection. A few conditions that may cause a false positive include the following:

  • HIV

  • Lyme disease

  • Malaria

  • Lupus

  • certain types of pneumonia, especially those associated with a compromised immune system

If the result is negative, then your doctor may ask you to wait a few weeks and then return for another test if you’re at a higher risk for syphilis. This is because of the VDRL (RPR) test’s potential for a false negative.

 It is due to the risk of false-positive results that your doctor will confirm the presence of syphilis with a second test, one that is specific for antibodies against the bacterium that causes syphilis, before starting your treatment. 


What are normal VDRL results?

If the test comes back negative for VDRL (syphilis antibodies), the result suggests that you don’t have syphilis.

If the test comes back positive for syphilis antibodies, you probably (but not definitely) have syphilis. If this occurs, your doctor will recommend a more specific test to confirm the results. A treponemal test (TPHA) is often done to confirm the positive test. The Treponemal tests check whether your immune system has produced specific antibodies in direct response to the syphilis-causing Treponema pallidum.


Potential for false positives and negatives

The VDRL test is not always accurate. For example, you might have false-negative results if you had syphilis for less than three months, as it could take this long for your body to produce antibodies. The test is also unreliable in later-stage syphilis.


And on the other hand, the following can cause false-positive results:

  • HIV

  • Lyme disease

  • Malaria

  • Pneumonia (certain types only)

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • IV drug use

  • Tuberculosis

In some cases, your body might not produce the antibodies even if you have been infected with syphilis. That means the VDRL test will be inaccurate.

The antibodies produced as a result of syphilis infection can stay in your body even after your syphilis has been treated. This means you may always have positive results on this test.


What other tests might I have along with this test?

TPHA (Treponema pallidum), HIV


How to book a VDRL test at home?

Log into and submit your details. Our highly trained, professional, and vaccinated eMedics will be at your doorstep within 60 minutes or at the time booked by you.


FAQs on VDRL Test

What is the principle of the VDRL test?

VDRL stands for Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test. The principle of the VDRL test is the agglutination reaction between the VDRL antigen and the reagin. The reaction may be seen macroscopically on the test slide as the clumping of the carbon particles.               


What is the normal range of the VDRL test?

A negative test is normal. It means that no antibodies to syphilis have been found in your blood sample. A screening test is most likely to be positive in secondary and latent stages of syphilis. This test might give a false-negative result during the early and late stages of syphilis.


What if the VDRL test is positive?

A positive test result means that you might have syphilis. If the test comes positive, the next step is to confirm the results with the fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-ABS) test, which is a more specific syphilis test. The VDRL test's ability to measure syphilis depends on the stage of the disease.


What are the symptoms of VDRL?

There are four stages of syphilis infection; they are primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. A skin rash that causes small, reddish brown sores, sores in your mouth, vagina, or anus, fever, swollen glands, weight loss, hair loss, headache, extreme tiredness, and muscle aches. These are the symptoms that occur in all the stages.

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