Over the last few decades, an age-old infectious disease has been re-emerging globally: Syphilis. Using techniques to analyze low levels of DNA, an international research team headed by the University of Zurich has now shown that all syphilis strains from modern patient samples share a common ancestor from the 1700s. Furthermore, their research demonstrates that strains dominating infections today originate from a pandemic cluster that emerged after 1950, and these strains share a worrying trait: Resistance to the second-line antibiotic azithromycin.
Infection with the bacteria Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum (TPA) has been re-emerging globally in the last few decades; more than 10 million cases are reported annually. Yet the reason for the resurgence of this sexually transmitted infection remains poorly understood.
Philipp Bosshard from the University Hospital Zurich is continuing to collect Swiss patient samples in order to further study the clinical aspects of the work. The researchers are convinced that this type of analysis will open new opportunities to develop a comprehensive understanding of the epidemiology of syphilis – a devastating disease that persists to this day, despite the availability of treatment.
Re-emergence of Syphilis Traced to Pandemic Strain Cluster