Syphilis testing: surging infection rate may have limited market impact

7 December 2018 (Last Updated December 7th, 2018 13:43)

While the rising rate of syphilis infections represents a very important and serious public health concern, GlobalData does not expect that this sexual health crisis will have as strong an impact on the syphilis diagnostics market as one might expect.

Syphilis testing: surging infection rate may have limited market impact

Syphilis is one of many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that are once again on the rise. There are a number of factors thought to be responsible for the increasing incidence of Syphilis. These include a greater propensity to participate in condomless sex, the growing popularity of dating apps and anonymous sexual interactions, a lack of necessary funding for public health initiatives, and improved diagnostic techniques.

While the rising rate of syphilis infections represents a very important and serious public health concern, GlobalData does not expect that this sexual health crisis will have as strong an impact on the syphilis diagnostics market as one might expect. This is because increased testing of infection and suspected infection cases represents only one component the highly complex in vitro diagnostics (IVD) market. Furthermore, while strong increases have been noted in the percentage of syphilis incident cases occurring year-on-year, these numbers are still relatively small and represent a minor portion of the population.

Treponema pallidum or syphilis tests are applied to a number of different patient groups and circumstances. In addition to infection and suspected infection cases, syphilis tests are also frequently used to screen pregnant women, anonymous sperm donations, whole blood donations, and source plasma donations.

Future of syphilis testing market: what will impact syphilis tests sales?

These different indications and patient groups contained within the syphilis tests market are expected to exert opposing pressures over the next decade. For example, live birth rates are declining in a number of Asian and European countries, resulting in fewer pregnant women who will require screening for infectious diseases. Similarly, voluntary whole blood donations are also decreasing in many countries around the world. Together, these two variables are expected to negatively impact future syphilis tests sales.

Conversely, source plasma donations are predicted to increase over the next decade and to thus drive growth of the syphilis tests market. However, it is well established that the majority of global source plasma donations are obtained from a small number of countries, such as the US, and then transferred to other geographical regions. This means that while higher numbers of source plasma donations are expected to promote syphilis tests sales, this effect will be concentrated within a select number of markets rather than widespread.

Another key component that determines the overall value of the syphilis tests market is the type of device used for primary screening. In general, two test types are required to diagnose this disease: an initial screening test that returns a positive result, followed by a confirmatory test. Devices used for primary screening are purchased in far higher volumes, as they are applied to all patient specimens, including those that test negative and do not require further analysis.

The evolution of screening devices around the world

In many countries, the devices used for primary syphilis screening are changing and a higher priced product is increasingly being employed. One of the major reasons cited for this switch is the fact that newer devices such as chemiluminescence immunoassays and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays are capable of high-throughput testing and enable institutions to reduce labour costs. These increased sales of newer, more expensive devices are also predicted to drive growth in the syphilis diagnostics market.

Altogether, while the recent surge in syphilis incident cases is predicted to result in improved disease awareness and possibly the implementation of new screening initiatives, it is one of many considerations that will determine the future of this IVD market.