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Positive serological tests for syphilis and administration of intravenous immunoglobulin
  1. S A Constable1,
  2. C M Parry2,
  3. T P Enevoldson3,
  4. M Bradley4
  1. 1Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Department of Medical Microbiology and Genito-urinary Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3The Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 S A Constable
 Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Liverpool, Ashton Street Medical School, Ashton Street, Liverpool L69 3GE, UK; s.constable{at}


We report the case of a man who tested positive for syphilis following the intravenous administration of human normal immunoglobulin as part of the treatment of Guillain-Barré syndrome. The chronology of the testing suggested the passive acquisition of treponemal antibody. This phenomenon is not widely documented in the medical literature, but is a theoretical risk of treatment, and serves as a reminder to be cautious in the interpretation of such serological tests.

  • CSF, cerebrospinal fluid
  • EIA, enzyme immunoassay
  • GBS, Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • HNIG, human normal immunoglobulin
  • RPR, rapid plasma reagin
  • TPHA, Treponema pallidum haemagglutination assay
  • VDRL, Venereal Disease Research Laboratory
  • intravenous immunoglobulin
  • syphilis
  • serological tests

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Consent: the patient concerned has given his consent to publication.

    Ethical approval: not required.

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