Institute for Global Health


Transcriptomic and next generation sequencing approaches to understanding infection with Treponema pallidum (Tpal-Omics Study)

Dates: October 2017 - (ongoing)

UCL lead: Dr Patrick French

Project lead: Dr Michael Marks, LSHTM

Partners: The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (lead partner), Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust

Location: UK

Funding: British Infection Association

Contact: mmc-research.cnwl@nhs.net

Project Summary 

Syphilis is an important sexually transmitted infection. There has been an epidemic of syphilis amongst men who have sex with men in the United Kingdom in the last decade. Early infection with syphilis causes a genital ulcer followed, in the absence of treatment, by a generalised illness often accompanied by rash. Studies on the pathogenesis of syphilis have been limited because it is not possible to grow syphilis outside of the body. New approaches using molecular tests allow the immune response of the patient to infection to be measured directly from a swab of a genital ulcer or rash and/or a blood sample and also allow the whole genetic sequence of the bacteria to be obtained from a swab. 

In this study we will collect swabs from ulcers or rashes and a blood sample from patients with syphilis and measure both the response of the patient immune system and the genetic sequence of the bacteria. Patients will be enrolled at sexual health clinics in the UK. Patients will receive standard medical care including standard treatment for syphilis in line with national guidelines. Standard management already includes collection of a swab and a blood sample. For this study we collect an additional swab sample and an additional 5ml of blood for use in this research project. By better understanding host immune system responses to infection with syphilis we hope to gain better insights into the pathogenesis of this important sexually transmitted disease.

Research Team

Dr Richard Gilson

Hinal Lukha 

Dr John Saunders



Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Cohort Studies


Further research