Development of syphilis vaccine one step closer


UVic microbiologist Caroline Cameron
UVic microbiologist Caroline Cameron
An international team of scientists co-led by a University of Victoria researcher is one step closer to a vaccine for syphilis.

Co-leaders UVic microbiologist Caroline Cameron and University of Washington’s Sheila Lukehart received a $2.3 million grant (USD) from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant will allow them to continue to make headway on vaccine development.

Despite the prevention, screening and treatment programs addressing this sexually transmitted infection, the number of cases of syphilis is on the rise. Worldwide, there are an estimated 36 million cases; 10.6 million new cases are diagnosed per year.

Rates of reported cases have been climbing steadily throughout Canada; rates in British Columbia are at their highest in 30 years. “We’re hopeful that a vaccine, in combination with screening and treatment efforts, will lead to the eradication of syphilis,” says Cameron.

Cameron is the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Pathogenesis and was recently named president-elect of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research (ISSTDR). She is also one of very few researchers in the world studying how the pathogen that causes syphilis spreads throughout the body.

“It’s an incredibly invasive pathogen,” she says. ”It’s one of the few pathogens that can pass from the bloodstream into the brain and from a woman into a fetus.” Syphilis is one of the leading causes of stillbirth worldwide and is recognized as the most significant disease affecting fetuses and newborns in low-income countries.

Cameron has already created a protein vaccine component that will prevent the bacterium from entering the bloodstream. It will be combined with lesion prevention proteins created by Lukehart. The funding provided by NIH will allow the researchers to take the vaccine through pre-clinical trials.

A high-resolution photo of Caroline Cameron is available via Dropbox.

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Media contacts

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

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

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Keywords: disease, chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology, research

People: Caroline Cameron

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