Dr. Parr and Dr. Juliano have been working to translate their malaria genomic methodologies to support studies of syphilis. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that continues to have a major impact globally, despite the availability of effective antibiotic treatment. Syphilis cases have surged in the United States over the past decade, and the disease continues to account for a significant number of adverse pregnancy outcomes due to mother-to-infant transmission.
We are now supporting efforts to develop a globally effective syphilis vaccine by serving as the genomics core for a large, multi-site study. Along with colleagues at UNC, including Dr. Arlene Sena, Dr. Joseph Tucker, and Irving Hoffman, we are working closely with syphilis experts Drs. Justin Radolf, Melissa Caimano, Juan Salazar, and Kelly Hawley at the Spirochete Research Labs at the University of Connecticut; Dr. Tony Moody at Duke (immunology); and Dr. David Šmajs at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic (syphilis genomics) to complete this project. This project spans sites in North Carolina, China, Columbia, the Czech Republic, and Malawi.
Additionally, through a partnership with UNC Project-China, we are collaborating with Dr. Heping Zheng and Dr. Bin Yang at the Dermatology Hospital of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, to study the molecular epidemiology of syphilis in China and to develop novel syphilis diagnostics.