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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1990 Mar 15;56(3):233-8.

Use of the polymerase chain reaction to detect DNA sequences specific to pathogenic treponemes in cerebrospinal fluid.

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Clinical Research Centre, Harrow, Middlesex, London.


The polymerase chain reaction was used to detect Treponema pallidum in specimens of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), as a means of diagnosing syphilis. Segments of the TmpA and 4D genes were amplified to provide an estimated threshold sensitivity of approximately 65 organisms in 0.5 ml. A spectrum of pathogens known to cause meningitis, and several non-pathogenic treponemes were unreactive. Treponema pertenue, and only one of 30 control specimens of CSF were positive. In contrast, 10 of 19 CSFs from patients being evaluated for latent or tertiary syphilis were positive, as were 7 of 28 specimens from HIV-positive patients.

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