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Institut für Rechtsmedizin

Genomic epidemiology and evolutionary history of the treponematoses

The surprising re-emergence of syphilis across the globe has prompted new genomic approaches to understand the epidemiology of the disease and its historical origins. By applying ancient DNA techniques to the study of a notoriously challenging and fragile bacterium, and through interdisciplinary collaborative efforts, we have been able to obtain whole genome data from clinical samples across numerous countries. Such data has provided new insights into the diversity of strains in current infections, as well as the rising incidence of antibiotic resistance.


Repsol Chemie Deutschland GmbH, Frankfurt

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

University of Washington, Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Department of Global Health, Seattle, (WA), USA

Unidad Mixta Infección y Salud Pública FISABIO/Universidad de Valencia. CIBER in Epidemiology and Public Health, Spain

Department of Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany

Center for Bioinformatics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UTHealth McGovern Medical School, Houston, TX, USA   

Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Department of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic



  • Grillová L, Oppelt J, Mikalová L, Nováková M, Giacani L, Niesnerová A, Noda A.A., Mechaly A.E, Pospíšilová P, Čejková D, Grange P.A, Dupin N, Strnadel R, Chen M, Denham I, Arora N, Picardeau M, Weston C, Forsyth R.A, Šmajs D (2019). Directly sequenced genomes of contemporary strains of syphilis reveal recombination-driven diversity in genes encoding predicted surface-exposed antigens. Frontiers in Microbiology, doi:
  • Grillova L, Bawa T, Mikalová L, Gayet-Ageron A., Nieselt K, Strouhal M, Sednaoui P, Ferry T, Cavassini M, Lautenschlager S, Dutly F, Pla-Díaz M, Krützen M, González-Candelas F, Bagheri HC, Smajs D*, Arora N*, and Bosshard PB* (2018). Molecular characterization of Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum in Switzerland and France with a new multilocus sequence typing scheme. PLoS ONE 13(7): e0200773.
  • Strouhal M, Oppelt J, Mikalová L, Arora N, Nieselt K, González-Candelas F, and Smajs D (2018). Reanalysis of Chinese Treponema pallidum samples: all Chinese samples cluster with SS14-like group of syphilis-causing treponemes. BMC Research Notes 11: 16.

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