VDRL - Venereal disease research laboratory (RPR)

Clinical definition of the VDRL (RPR) test
VDRL is a blood test that detects antibodies to the bacterium Treponema pallidum in the blood, body fluid, or tissue. This bacteria cause’s syphilis infection which is a sexually transmitted disease that infects the genital area, lips, mouth, or anus of both men and women. It may also pass on from mother to baby during pregnancy. A syphilis infection can spread through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. If not treated, syphilis can cause severe heart disease, brain damage, spinal cord damage, blindness, and death.
The tests which could be done for Syphilis are:
For screening:

  • VDRL which stands for “venereal disease research laboratory” test
  • Rapid plasma reagin test (RPR) very similar to VDRL test

For diagnosis:

  • Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test (FTA-ABS)
  • Treponema pallidum hemagglutination assays (TPHA)

Why is the VDRL (RPR) test done?
To screen, confirm or diagnose a syphilis infection due to bacteria Treponema pallidum. It may be done as a part of preventive tests during pregnancy.

What are the common signs/symptoms when the VDRL (RPR) test is done?
Syphilis generally shows the signs & symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. The early stage of syphilis usually causes a single, small, painless sore. Sometimes it causes swelling in nearby lymph nodes. If not treated, syphilis usually causes a non-itchy skin rash, often on the hands and feet. Symptoms may go unnoticed for years and may reappear.

Who should do the VDRL (RPR) test (Target population)?
Persons showing the above signs and symptoms and those who are at a high risk of contracting an STD. Pregnant woman may also do this test as a part of preventive tests.

What should I do before the VDRL (RPR) test?

Specimen type

Specimen collection procedure

Preparatory instructions before the test *

Serum (Blood Sample)

Venipuncture - Collection of blood from a vein, usually from the arm.

No Fasting Required.

No other special preparations required.

*Subjects suffering from any illness or on oral or injectable medications are advised to consult their physician prior to requesting any tests or procedures.

How do I interpret my VDRL (RPR) test results?


Reference Range*


Non reactive

No infection

Diagnostic titre : 1:8

Syphilis infection

Interpretive Data:
A negative (nonreactive) VDRL is compatible with a person not having syphilis, but in the early stages of the disease, the VDRL often gives false negative results. Conversely, a false positive VDRL can be encountered in infectious mononucleosis, lupus, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, hepatitis A, leprosy, malaria and, occasionally, pregnancy.
‘*A Reference range is a set of values which helps the healthcare professional to interpret a medical test. It may vary with age, gender, and other factors. Reference ranges may also vary between labs, in value & units depending on instruments used and method of establishment of reference ranges’

Diseases/conditions related to the VDRL (RPR) test

  • Mononucleosis
  • Lupus
  • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, 
  • Hepatitis A
  • Leprosy
  • Malaria 

Other tests related to the VDRL (RPR) test

  • HIV screening Test
  • Western Blot
  • Anti Hepatitis Envelop Antigen Total
  • Anti Hepatitis C Virus - Total

Synonyms : Treponema pallidum particle agglutination assay (TPPA), Microhemagglutination assay for Treponema pallidum (MHA-TP), Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test (FTA-ABS), Syphilis detection test
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VDRL (Serum)