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Development of a test for diagnosis of active syphilis

Treatment of syphilis is simple and affordable with the use of antibiotics, but definitive diagnosis of active (infectious) syphilis is complicated. Using current technologies, distinguishing acute (infectious) syphilis from past treated or latent (non-infectious) syphilis requires a sequence of laboratory screening and confirmatory tests, which contributes to missed testing opportunities and loss to follow-up care. 

To develop a point of care diagnostic assay for the diagnosis of active syphilis and distinction from past-treated syphilis.

2022 - Ongoing

Our approach is to find a unique combination of antigens that can be expressed at high quality, reproducibly, at low cost, with the desired antigenic properties that is patentable. The test must represent an improvement over existing syphilis tests on the market. 

Syphilis is a serious infectious disease that can cause irreversible damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems if left undiagnosed and untreated. Vertical transmission of syphilis from mother to child during pregnancy (congenital syphilis), is a long-standing concern globally, and in recent years has emerged as a public health concern in Australia, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The World Health organisation reported that in 2020, there were 7.1 million new cases of syphilis among people 15-49 years old, and 425 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 live births (ref: Global Health Sector Strategies on, respectively, HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections for the period 2022-2030 (GHSS)”.

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Jennifer Barnes

Contact Jennifer Barnes for more information about this project.



  • Thrasher Research Fund

Partners +

  • Atomo
  • Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Jason Ong