Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies directed against IgG antibodies (rheumatoid factor [RF]) are known to occur often in patients with syphilis and to interfere with serological tests measuring specific antibodies of the IgM class. In this study we examined the occurrence and specificity of the RF and demonstrated a simple method to detect and eliminate the RF for a specific Treponema pallidum IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We measured the occurrence of the RF with a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and found that it increased with the duration of syphilitic disease: 1 of 13 primary syphilis serum specimens, 3 of 13 secondary syphilis serum specimens, and 10 of 27 latent syphilis serum specimens were reactive in this RF test. Those sera containing IgM RF were immunoprecipitated with anti-human gamma chain antibodies and 2% polyethylene glycol until the RF was removed. One serum specimen from a patient in the secondary stage of syphilis and eight serum specimens from patients with latent disease still presented the RF after immunoprecipitation. Removal of the IgG antibodies also improved the sensitivity of the treponemal IgM test, indicating competition of these antibodies for binding sites of the antigen. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for detection of RF and antitreponemal IgM antibodies are performed on the same plate. Theoretically, only sera positive for both tests have to be immunoprecipitated. But our findings indicated an increase in sensitivity of the IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay after removal of IgG antibodies responsible for competition at the binding sites.