Event Details

PHO Microbiology Rounds: Developing a genomic surveillance program for syphilis in Canada (and Ontario)

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the “non-culturable” bacterium Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum. Following decades of low incidence, infectious syphilis is on the rise in Canada, leading to an unprecedented number of cases. Current syphilis surveillance is often limited to case counting in different demographic groups, and little is known about the strain type causing disease in current outbreaks. This PHO Microbiology Rounds will present new genomic information that will improve our capacity to effectively track syphilis diversity and distribution as well as gather information on antimicrobial resistance to inform on alternative treatment options, leading to better patient and public health outcomes. Cost effective metagenomic solutions are needed to develop a robust syphilis surveillance program in Canada. We have tested multiple metagenomic methods for capturing T. pallidum whole genome sequences. We will show the potential of this data which can be leveraged to fill the knowledge gap of T. pallidum strain types circulating in Canada and track antimicrobial resistance.

Intended audience: Microbiologists, laboratory scientists, public health professionals interested in genomics and bioinformatics, public health physicians

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the change in syphilis epidemiology in Canada and abroad
  • Describe the Treponema genome and the value of a genomic epidemiology program for syphilis
  • Describe challenges associated with whole genome sequencing of Treponema
  • Discuss approaches to sequencing a non-culturable bacterium

Presenter(s): Tom Braukmann, PhD

Tom Braukmann, PhD, did his PhD at the University of Toronto in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Following his PhD he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Guelph and then at the Stanford University. He joined PHO in May of 2022 as a scientist in genomics and bioinformatics. He currently works on projects involving SARS-CoV-2, mpox, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB), and Treponema pallidum subsp pallidum (syphilis).


The opinions expressed by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies or views of Public Health Ontario, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by Public Health Ontario.


Public Health Ontario Rounds are a self-approved group learning activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). In order to receive written documentation for Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits, please check “Yes” beside the question “Do you require CME credits?” on the registration form.

College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) Affiliate Members may count RCPSC credits toward their Mainpro+ credit requirements. All other CFPC members may claim up to 50 Certified credits per cycle for participation in RCPSC MOC Section 1 accredited activities.

PHO Rounds are also approved by the Council of Professional Experience for professional development hours (PDHs) for members of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI).

For more information or for a record of registration for other Continuing Education purposes, please contact capacitybuilding@oahpp.ca.


Public Health Ontario is committed to complying with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). If you require accommodations to participate in this event, please contact 647-260-7100 or capacitybuilding@oahpp.ca.

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Capacity Building


Published 25 March 2024