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UVic researcher patents protein to find vaccine for syphilis

File photo. Researchers have patented a protein to create a vaccine for syphilis.
File photo. Researchers have patented a protein to create a vaccine for syphilis. Courtesy, Manitoba Health

Syphilis, though treatable with antibiotics, continues to be a big issue around the world because of its highly infectious nature to transfer into multiple bodies, cause harm or even death.

So researchers at the University of Victoria have patented a protein that could one day be a trump card against the sexually transmitted disease.

In 2016, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control released a statement that said it saw 755 reports for syphilis, the highest rate in 30 years.

READ MORE: Why STI rates are steadily going up in Canada

“It’s a pathogen that can pass from the bloodstream into the brain, and from a pregnant woman to her fetus,” Caroline Cameron, professor of microbiology at the University of Victoria, said.

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WATCH: Metro Vancouver health officials warn of syphilis outbreak

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver health officials warn of syphilis outbreak' Metro Vancouver health officials warn of syphilis outbreak
Metro Vancouver health officials warn of syphilis outbreak – Feb 11, 2016

Cameron, who is also one of the researchers for the vaccine, patented the protein so it could be protected.

“The first step is to obviously really understand the function of the protein. If you understand how the protein contributes to the infection, you can have a better idea whether it’s actually going to work as a vaccine,” Cameron said.

READ MORE: Everything Canadians need to know about STI testing and sexual health

She said the disease interacts with the infected body by mimicking the person’s cells.

“It’s called a stealth pathogen,” Cameron said. “It has a good mechanism for looking like the host, looking like what the cells in the body already look like or components of those cells.”

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Finding the protein is a good start she says, but finding a vaccine is still quite a ways down the road.

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