Facebook linked to syphilis? Correlation does not mean causation.

24 03 2010

I have been following the aftermath of the Facebook/syphilis link all day with much interest.

Syphilis has been a twitter ‘trending topic’ – whether due to people discussing the scaryness of the initial story, or commenting on the lack of actual published data – so it seems to be a topic of interest to others as well as the sub-species I belong to, otherwise known as science geeks.

For those with a moment to spare, here is one of the articles, from the Telegraph 

“There has been a fourfold increase in the number of syphilis cases detected with more young women being affected.

“I don’t get the names of people affected, just figures, and I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites.

“Social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex.”

OK, this may be true. However, a quick Google Scholar search hasn’t shown any published research supporting this, and it is unclear where the data is coming from, how it was collected… In short, anything that might make this a real story!

I hope that real research has been done, and that given time, we will hear about it. But so far, Teeside have kept remarkably schtum.

With far greater journalists than I already having attempted contact, I shall leave it until we know more to make any further comments.

For a more in depth look at this, please check out Dr Petra’ blogpost. If nothing else, she argues, this could be an excellent route in to educating the public about this disease.

J x

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One response

24 03 2010
Michael

Not even the ecological statistics back up this claim. The closest thing I could possibly find that maybe possibly conceivably could back up a “four-fold increase” is that the number of new diagnoses of syphillis among females in the North-East was 4 in 2004 and 17 in 2007 (even though it then went down to 9 the year after).

Source: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1215589013156 (page 13)

That’s some serious statistical barrel-scraping.

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