MICROSCOPE STUDIES. The diagnosis of syphilis can also be confirmed by identifying spirochetes in samples of tissue or lymphatic fluid. Fresh samples can be made into slides and studied under darkfield illumination. A newer method involves preparing slides from dried fluid smears and staining them with fluorescein for viewing under UV light. This method is replacing dark-field examination because the slides can be mailed to professional laboratories.
SPINAL FLUID TESTS. Testing of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is an important part of patient monitoring as well as a diagnostic test. The VDRL and FTA-ABS tests can be performed on CSF as well as on blood. An abnormally high white cell count and elevated protein levels in the CSF, together with positive VDRL results, suggest a possible diagnosis of neurosyphilis. CSF testing is not used for routine screening. It is used most frequently for infants with congenital syphilis, HIV-positive patients, and patients of any age who are not responding to penicillin treatment.
It is difficult to obtain information about alternative treatments for syphilis. The disease has a high profile as a public health issue and few alternative practitioners want to risk accusations of minimizing its dangers. One respected resource for alternative therapies states bluntly, "Syphilis should not be treated only with natural therapies." Most naturopathic practitioners agree that antibiotics are essential for the treatment of syphilis. Others would add that recovery from the disease can be assisted by dietary changes, sleep, exercise, and stress reduction, and immune support measures.
Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,