Genome Reveals Wiles and Weak Points of Syphilis

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Science  17 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5375, pp. 324-325
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5375.324

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On page 375, researchers describe the sequence of the 1.14 million base pairs that make up the genetic code of Treponema pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis. Although complete gene sequences are known for perhaps 14 other microbes, including a half-dozen that cause disease, none has been so difficult to study with the traditional tools of microbiology, because the microbe doesn't survive long in the culture dish. Public health workers are now hoping that this new information will help them battle the disease and perhaps eventually find a vaccine. And in a related Policy piece, public health officials discuss a possible campaign to eliminate syphilis in the United States (see p. 353).