Is an FTA-ABS Blood Test?
The fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-ABS) test is a blood test
that checks for the presence of antibodies to Treponema pallidum bacteria. These
bacteria cause syphilis.
Syphilis s a sexually
transmitted infection (STI) that’s spread through direct contact with syphilitic
sores. Sores are most often present on the penis, vagina, or rectum. These
sores aren’t always noticeable. You may not even know that you’re infected.
The FTA-ABS test doesn’t actually check for the syphilis
infection itself. However, it can determine whether you have antibodies to the bacteria
that cause it. Antibodies are
special proteins produced by the immune system when harmful substances are
detected. These harmful substances, known as antigens, include viruses, fungi, and bacteria. This
means that people who are infected with syphilis will have the corresponding
Is an FTA-ABS Blood Test Performed?
The FTA-ABS test is often performed after other tests that screen
for syphilis, such as the rapid plasma regain (RPR) and venereal disease
research laboratory (VDRL) tests. It’s usually done if these initial screening
tests come back positive for syphilis. The FTA-ABS test can help confirm
whether the results of these tests are accurate.
Your doctor may also order this test if you have symptoms of
syphilis, such as:
- small, roundish sores on the genitals, which are
- a fever
- hair loss
- aching joints
- swollen lymph nodes
- an itchy rash on the hands and feet
The FTA-ABS test might also be done if you’re being treated for
another STI or if you’re pregnant. Syphilis can be life-threatening for a
growing fetus if it’s left untreated. You might also need this test if you’re about
to get married. This test is required if you want to get a marriage certificate
in some states.
Do I Prepare for an FTA-ABS Blood Test?
There are no special preparations required for an FTA-ABS test.
However, you should tell your doctor if you’re taking any blood thinners, such
(Coumadin). Your doctor may advise you to stop taking certain medications that
can affect the test results.
Is an FTA-ABS Blood Test Performed?
An FTA-ABS test involves giving a small sample of blood. Blood is
usually drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow. The following
- Before drawing blood, a healthcare provider will
clean the area with a swab of rubbing alcohol to kill any germs.
- They’ll then tie an elastic band around your upper
arm, causing your veins to swell with blood.
- Once they find a vein, they’ll insert a sterile
needle and draw blood into a tube attached to the needle. You may feel a slight
prick when the needle goes in, but the test itself isn’t painful.
- When enough blood has been drawn, the needle is
removed and the site is covered with a cotton pad and bandage.
- The blood sample will then be sent to a
laboratory for analysis.
- Your doctor will follow up with you to discuss
Are the Risks of an FTA-ABS Blood Test?
As with any blood test, there’s a small risk of minor bruising at
the puncture site. In rare cases, the vein may also become swollen after blood
is drawn. This condition, known as phlebitis,
can be treated with a warm compress several times each day. Ongoing bleeding
could also be a problem if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re taking a blood
thinner, such as warfarin or aspirin.
Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Do My FTA-ABS Blood Test Results Mean?
A normal test result will give a negative reading for the
presence of antibodies to T. pallidum bacteria. This means that
you’re not currently infected with syphilis and that you’ve never been infected
with the disease.
An abnormal test result will give a positive reading for the
presence of antibodies to T. pallidum bacteria. This means that you
have or have had a syphilis infection. Your test result will also be positive
even if you’ve been previously diagnosed with syphilis and it was treated
If you’ve tested positive for syphilis and it’s in the early
stages, then the infection can be treated relatively easily. Treatment often
involves penicillin injections. Penicillin is one of the most widely used
antibiotics and is usually effective in treating syphilis. You’ll receive a
follow-up blood test every three months for the first year and then one year
later to ensure the syphilis infection is gone.
Unfortunately, if you have tested positive for syphilis and the
infection in its later stages, then the damage to your organs and tissues is irreversible.
This means that treatment is likely to be ineffective.
In rare cases, you may receive a false positive test result for
syphilis. This means that antibodies to T. pallidum bacteria were found,
but you don’t have syphilis. Instead, you may have another disease caused by
these bacteria, such as yaws or pinta. Yaws
is a long-term infection of the bones, joints, and skin. Pinta is a disease that affects the
Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about your test