Monday, 18 November 2013

Where did syphilis come from?


Did Columbus bring the disease syphilis back with him from the New World, or was it in Europe all along? Katherine Wright, winner of the Wellcome Trust science writing prize 2013, has investigated this issue in a fascinating article.

Here is an excerpt, all about the spread of Treponema pallidum:

"As its many names attest, contemporaries of the first spread of syphilis did not know where this disease had come from. Was it indeed the fault of the French? Was it God's punishment on earthly sinners?
Another school of thought, less xenophobic and less religious, soon gained traction. Columbus's historic voyage to the New World was in 1492. The Italian soldiers were noticing angry chancres on their genitals by 1494. What if Columbus had brought the disease back to Europe with him as an unwelcome stowaway aboard the Pinta or the NiƱa?"

To read the full article, see The Guardian.

Posted by Tim Sandle