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Melbourne’s using COVID technology to track new syphilis outbreak

Genomic sequencing technology used to combat Covid-19 outbreaks is being used to track syphilis cases in Melbourne.

Victorians find themselves in the midst of another health crisis as Syphilis outbreaks spread into North West and South East Melbourne suburbs – places where the STI was not usually present before.

To nip it at the bud, scientists are turning to the genomic sequencing technology used in the COVID-19 outbreak, to analyse genetic codes in people at risk of transmitting the STI.

Woman in hospital gown
Image via The Australian

Good luck explaining that to someone two years ago.

Professor Williamson, a representative for the Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic, has said the technology would “enable us to track strains of syphilis as they emerge. She has stated that “genomic sequencing had emerged as a critical tool to contain COVID-19.”

Specifically, the technology allows: “health authorities to quickly examine outbreaks, map clusters, identify super-spreading events, mutant strains and understand behaviours that spread the disease.”

Tracking different strains and ensuring early detections is vital for combatting Syphilis as the nasty disease can lead to skin lesions, neurological disorders and memory loss. Just look at Chairman Mao, or Henry VIII.

This year, more than 560 cases of syphilis have been recorded in Melbourne. In addition, there has been a rise in cases, especially among women, some of them pregnant, who are then at risk of infecting their unborn children.

Not to mention, there is an increase in people presenting signs of ocular syphilis, which can lead to vision loss and even blindness. Jeez.

Professor Williamson has said that Melbourne scientists should expect to have initial testing results in a few months. But for now, she recommends early testing and screening for people who believe they may be infected.