New evidence: Columbus and Syphilis

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posted on Dec, 27 2011 @ 01:05 PM
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www.cbsnews.com...


(Livescience.com) In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but when he returned from 'cross the seas, did he bring with him a new disease?

New skeletal evidence suggests Columbus and his crew not only introduced the Old World to the New World, but brought back syphilis as well, researchers say.

Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria, and is usually curable nowadays with antibiotics. Untreated, it can damage the heart, brain, eyes and bones; it can also be fatal.

The first known epidemic of syphilis occurred during the Renaissance in 1495. Initially its plague broke out among the army of Charles the VIII after the French king invaded Naples. It then proceeded to devastate Europe, said researcher George Armelagos, a skeletal biologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

"Syphilis has been around for 500 years," said researcher Molly Zuckerman at Mississippi State University. "People started debating where it came from shortly afterward, and they haven't stopped since. It was one of the first global diseases, and understanding where it came from and how it spread may help us combat diseases today."



Armelagos originally doubted the so-called Columbian theory for syphilis when he first heard about it decades ago. "I laughed at the idea that a small group of sailors brought back this disease that caused this major European epidemic," he recalled. Critics of the Columbian theory have proposed that syphilis had always bedeviled the Old World but simply had not been set apart from other rotting diseases such as leprosy until 1500 or so.

However, upon further investigation, Armelagos and his colleagues got a shock — all of the available evidence they found supported the Columbian theory, findings they published in 1988. "It was a paradigm shift," Armelagos says. Then in 2008, genetic analysis by Armelagos and his collaborators of syphilis's family of bacteria lent further support to the theory.



Still, there have been reports of 50 skeletons from Europe dating back from before Columbus set sail that apparently showed the lesions of chronic syphilis. These seemed to be evidence that syphilis originated in the Old World and that Columbus was not to blame.

Armelagos and his colleagues took a closer look at all the data from these prior reports. They found most of the skeletal material didn't actually meet at least one of the standard diagnostic criteria for chronic syphilis, such as pitting on the skull, known as caries sicca, and pitting and swelling of the long bones.

"There's no really good evidence of a syphilis case before 1492 in Europe," Armelagos told LiveScience.



While this may not directly implicate Columbus and his crew in the spread of syphilis to the Old World, it does give some compelling arguement to the old theories.




posted on Dec, 27 2011 @ 01:14 PM
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I read an article a few months ago that stated Europeans contracted syphilis from the Amerindians, as well as some other STD's. I wish I would have bookmarked that page because I new eventually a light would be shed on the topic.

Everyone is always soo quick to demonize the Europeans so I'm glad this came out. There are two way streets out there, not just one starting in Europe and ending elsewhere.
edit on 27-12-2011 by kimish because: (no reason given)
edit on 27-12-2011 by kimish because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 27 2011 @ 02:11 PM
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BUMP. I'd like to hear others thoughts on this.



posted on Dec, 28 2011 @ 01:52 AM
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reply to post by kimish
 


I believe you would be foolish to think Europe had diseases unknown to the Americas, but the Americas had no diseases unknown to Europe. AIDS has been traced back to a single person, we know one is all it takes, the idea a small group of sailors couldn't be responsible flies in the face of what is known to be true.

www.wired.com...



posted on Dec, 28 2011 @ 04:31 PM
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Originally posted by OccamsRazor04
reply to post by kimish
 


I believe you would be foolish to think Europe had diseases unknown to the Americas, but the Americas had no diseases unknown to Europe. AIDS has been traced back to a single person, we know one is all it takes, the idea a small group of sailors couldn't be responsible flies in the face of what is known to be true.

www.wired.com...



Basically my point was about the Europeans being ostracized for "purposely" introducing small pox to the Amerindians (note the quotes, it is very important) yet we hear nothing about what is basically in the op, the Amerindians spreading diseases to the Europeans. And the Europeans are demonized for spreading small pox when the fact is that the Europeans were probably acting in good will by supporting Amerindians with warmth (blankets) that were unknowingly tainted. Mind you, at that time in life, diseases weren't really known about which would include how they were spread (blankets) and so forth, so could the Europeans really know that the blankets were tainted? Now, in lieu of them not knowing much about diseases don't you think it would be wise to consider that they also didn't know about immunities?

Nobody knew than or even in the 19th century what we know now so, I ask you, why are the Europeans always being demonized for spreading disease to the Amerindians when it was actually a 2 way street? Isn't that a biased or even racist point of view against the Europeans? I think it is, every group uses every breath they have to demonize Europeans, particularly white Europeans. Except for the East Asians.
edit on 28-12-2011 by kimish because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 01:14 AM
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reply to post by kimish
 


I believe there are different vectors for the spread of small pox. Initially it was certainly an accident I would imagine. To believe that it was not done intentionally at some point would go against logic. Biological warfare had been used in Europe, there's no reason to think they would not have used it for their gain against Amerindians. Of course not all Europeans should be held accountable, every group has their criminals.

I also would say that if the Amerindians known of a way to use biological warfare against the European invaders they certainly would have (at least some of the tribes).





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