Wassermann test

Wassermann test

The Wassermann test is a complement-fixation (Complement system) antibody test for syphilis, named after the bacteriologist August von Wassermann.


A sample of blood or cerebrospinal fluid is taken and introduced to the antigen - cardiolipin extracted from bovine muscle or heart. Syphilis-specific antibodies (reagines) react with the lipid - the Wassermann reaction of antiphospholipid antibodies (APAs). The intensity of the reaction (1, 2, 3, or 4) indicates the severity of the condition.


The reaction is not actually specific to syphilis and will produce a positive reaction to other diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis, and numerous other diseases. It is possible for an infected individual to produce no reaction and for a successfully treated individual to continue to produce a reaction (called Wassermann fast or fixed).

Development and refinement

The antibody test was developed by Wassermann, Julius Citron, and Albert Neisser at the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases in 1906. [WhoNamedIt|doctor|2511] [A Wassermann, A. Neisser and C. Bruck. Eine serodiagnostische Reaktion bei Syphilis. Deutsche medicinische Wochenschrift, Berlin, 1906, 32: 745-746. Announcing the test for syphilis.] The test was a growth from the work of Bordet and Gengou on complementing-fixation reaction, published in 1901, and the positive reaction is sometimes called the Bordet-Gengou-Wassermann reaction or Bordet-Wassermann reaction.

The Wassermann test has been refined - Kahn test, Kolmer test - and it is rarely used today. Replacement tests (VDRL test, RPR test), initially based on flocculation techniques (Hinton), have been shown to produce far fewer false positive results. Indeed the "biologic false positives" of modern tests usually indicate a serious alternate condition, often an autoimmune disease.

Citron, Dr. Julius, Immunity (English translation) 1914 163-164

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Wassermann test — n a test for the detection of syphilitic infection using the Wassermann reaction called also Wassermann * * * the original (1906) nontreponemal antigen test for syphilis; see serologic t. for syphilis …   Medical dictionary

  • Wassermann test — or Wassermann reaction n. [after WASSERMANN August von, who devised it] a complement fixation test for the diagnosis of syphilis by determining the presence of syphilitic antibodies in the blood serum …   English World dictionary

  • Wassermann Test —    August von Wassermann (1866 1925), born in Romberg, Bavaria, received his medical degree and then joined the research community of the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases in Berlin. In 1913, he joined the staff of Kaiser Wilhelm… …   Dictionary of eponyms

  • Wassermann test — noun Date: 1909 a test for the detection of syphilis using the Wassermann reaction called also Wassermann …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Wassermann test — a diagnostic test for syphilis using the fixation of a complement by the serum of a syphilitic individual. Also called Wassermann reaction. [1910 15; named after A. von WASSERMANN] * * * …   Universalium

  • Wassermann test — Was′sermann test n. med a diagnostic test for syphilis using the fixation of a complement by the serum of a syphilitic individual. Also called Was′sermann reac tion • Etymology: 1910–15; after A. von Wassermann …   From formal English to slang

  • Wassermann test —  Blood test for syphilis, named after German bacteriologist August von Wassermann (1866–1925) …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Wassermann test — n. a test for syphilis using the reaction of the patient s blood serum. Etymology: A. von Wassermann, Ger. pathologist d. 1925 …   Useful english dictionary

  • Wassermann test (reaction) — Was·ser·mann test (reaction) (vahsґer mahn) [August Paul von Wassermann, German bacteriologist, 1866–1925] see under test …   Medical dictionary

  • Wassermann — is a German surname meaning waterman and may refer to:* August von Wassermann, a German bacteriologist * Ehren Wassermann, a Major League Baseball pitcher * Jakob Wassermann, a Jewish German writer and novelist * Zbigniew Wassermann, Polish… …   Wikipedia

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