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Essential mixed cryoglobulinaemia with false-positive serological tests for syphilis.
  1. R R Jones,
  2. C Pusey,
  3. J Schifferli,
  4. N A Johnston


    Analysis of serum from a patient with cutaneous leukocytoclastic vasculitis showed a mixed cryoglobulin with a monoclonal IgM kappa-antiglobulin component (6.5 mg/ml), strong rheumatoid factor activity (latex titre 1/5000), and positive serological tests for syphilis (fluorescent treponemal antibody-absorbed and Treponema pallidum haemagglutination assay). After removal of antiglobulin activity by immunoabsorption with heat-aggregated gammaglobulin all serological test results for treponemal infection became negative. Serological tests for syphilis and rheumatoid factor on the supernatant from whole serum (minus cryoglobulin) remained positive though at a lower titre (latex 1/1250). Cryoglobulin isolated from whole serum retained rheumatoid and TPHA reactivity but was negative in the FTA-ABS test. The IgM and IgG cryoglobulin components purified by gel filtration on Sepharose showed no antitreponemal reactivity even when tested individually. Reducing the concentration of cryoglobulin to 1.5 mg/ml by plasma exchange converted the test results for syphilis to doubtful-positive or negative. These results indicated that high concentrations of antiglobulin activity may be associated with falsely positive specific antitreponemal test results and that this phenomenon depends on the concentration of cryoglobulin in the test sample.

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