Researcher patents potential vaccine candidate for an ancient disease


[UVic microbiologist Caroline Cameron]. Credit: UVic Photo Services.

University of Victoria microbiologist Caroline Cameron and colleagues have received a patent for a potential vaccine candidate against syphilis. 

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial disease that dates back to at least 1495. Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics but remains an enduring issue due to its highly infectious nature. Worldwide, there are an estimated 11 million cases of syphilis each year. Current rates of the disease in BC are at their highest in 30 years.

The disease increases susceptibility to HIV and can cause irreversible tissue damage if left untreated. It’s also one of the leading causes of infectious stillbirth in low-income countries, leading to more than 205,000 fetal and newborn deaths annually.

”The pathogen that causes syphilis can pass from the bloodstream into the brain, and from a pregnant woman to her fetus,” explains Cameron.

The vaccine component that has been patented is a protein aimed at preventing the bacterium from entering the bloodstream.

Cameron is collaborating with researchers at the University of Washington and the Infectious Disease Research Institute, both in Seattle, with the goal of developing a vaccine composition that incorporates this patented protein component.

The World Health Organization has an ambitious target of reducing the disease by 90 per cent globally, and by 2030 aims to reduce the number of babies born with syphilis to 50 or fewer cases per 100,000 live births in 80 per cent of affected countries.

“A vaccine would provide an effective tool against the global fight against syphilis, when added to prevention, screening and treatment programs,” says Cameron.

Funding for this project is provided by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

UVic has approximately 140 active patents and has been granted seven patents for innovations since the start of 2018.

A press kit containing high-resolution photos are available on Dropbox.

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Media contacts

Caroline Cameron (Biochemistry and Microbiology) at 250-853-3189 or

Vimala Jeevanandam (Communications Officer, Faculty of Science) at 250-721-8745 or

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Keywords: health, disease, microbiology, science, biomedical, research

People: Caroline Cameron

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