Syphilis is a chronic infection caused by Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum, and diagnosis with sensitive and specific methods is a challenging process that is important for its prevention and treatment. In the present study, we established a recombinant protein TpF1-based indirect immunoglobulin G (IgG) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and a Western blot assay for human and rabbit sera. The 20-kDa recombinant protein TpF1 was detected by Western blotting performed with sera from rabbits immunized with recombinant TpF1 and infected with the T. pallidum Nichols strain and T. pallidum clinical isolates but was not detected by Western blotting with sera from uninfected rabbits. The sensitivity of the recombinant protein was determined by screening sera from individuals with primary, secondary, latent, and congenital syphilis (n = 82). The specificity of the recombinant protein was determined by screening sera from uninfected controls (n = 30) and individuals with potentially cross-reactive infections, including
Lyme disease (n = 30) and leptospirosis (n = 5). The sensitivities of TpF1-based ELISAs were 93.3%, 100%, 100%, and 100% for primary, secondary, latent, and congenital syphilis, respectively, and the specificities were all 100% for sera from uninfected controls and individuals with potentially cross-reactive infections. In Western blot assays, the sensitivities and specificities of TpF1 for human sera were all 100%. The reactivities of TpF1 with syphilitic sera were proportional to the titers of the T. pallidum particle agglutination (TPPA) assay. These data indicate that the recombinant protein TpF1 is a highly immunogenic protein in human and rabbit infections and a promising marker for the screening of syphilis.