Navigation Links
Columbus Carried Syphilis From New World to Europe, Study Suggests
Date:1/14/2008

Genetic testing sees link to similar disease found in South America

MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A new analysis of the genetics of syphilis provides support for the theory that the disease hitched a ride with Christopher Columbus from the New World back to the Old World.

But in a new wrinkle, the research suggests the disease may not have been transmitted through sex until it adapted to the environment in Europe.

"It evolved this whole new transmission mode, and it didn't take very many genetic changes," said study lead author Kristin Harper, a graduate student at Emory University. "What this tells us is that new transmission modes may evolve pretty rapidly. This is important to us today, because we're worried about things like avian influenza going from human to human."

Syphilis is usually easily treated today, typically with antibiotics such as penicillin. But U.S. health officials have failed in their efforts to eliminate it; minorities and gay men have been among those most likely to be infected.

Then there's the long-running controversy over how syphilis found its way to Europe, where it spread havoc for centuries. One theory holds that the disease was already in Europe before the explorer Columbus returned, but people didn't diagnose it correctly, Harper said.

The most familiar theory suggests that syphilis came to the Europe via frisky sailors on the Columbus expedition, and historical records suggest the disease did appear on the continent in 1495, three years after Columbus set sail for what proved to be the New World.

Harper and her colleagues tried to track the evolution of syphilis by examining genes from it and other diseases related to the pathogen known as Treponema.

The researchers looked at 21 genetic regions in strains of the pathogen from 26 parts of the world. Treponema causes syphilis and a disease known as yaws, a "flesh-eating" infection of the joints, bones and skin found in tropical regions.

According to the study authors, the results of their genetic research reveal that the syphilis strains appeared most recently and are most closely related to strains that cause yaws in South America.

But in a twist, the study results also suggested that yaws first appeared not in the New World but in the Old World, Harper said.

In essence, she said, the theory goes something like this: Yaws appeared in Africa and eventually made its way to South America and the New World as humans migrated. Then the germs made their way to Europe with the help of sailors and may have evolved into the venereal disease known as syphilis, perhaps because of different environmental conditions.

"It's especially neat when I think about contacts between Europeans and Native Americans," Harper said. "As far as diseases go, it seemed like a one-way street: Europeans brought measles and smallpox (to the Indians). But this is an example of disease going the other way. That seems kind of fair."

The findings are published in the Jan. 15 issue of the Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The new research makes sense to Dr. Bruce Rothschild, professor of medicine at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, who's studied the evolution of syphilis by examining skeletal remains.

"It confirms everything we've done," he said. "When you've got two sets of totally different diagnostic techniques that come up with the same answer, that really increases the power of the technique."

More information

Learn more about syphilis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



SOURCES: Kristin Harper, graduate student, Emory University, Atlanta; Bruce Rothschild, M.D., professor of medicine, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Rootstown; Jan. 16, 2008, Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Diseases, online


'/>"/>
Copyright©2008 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Knights of Columbus to Distribute Wheelchairs to Veterans in Need
2. ZONARE Ranked Best in KLAS as Hand Carried Ultrasound Vendor in 2007 Top20: Year-End Report
3. Lend me your ears -- and the world will sound very different
4. Roche Engages in Four Additional AIDS Technology Transfers to Strengthen Local Manufacturing in Worlds Poorest Countries
5. WellPoint Executive Mark Boxer Recognized as One of Computerworlds 2008 Premier 100 IT Leaders
6. AUDIO from Medialink and Safe Kids Worldwide: Teaming Up to Keep Kids Safe Around Cars
7. Six Positive Predictions for 2008, from SuperLife World Service
8. New report estimates 12 million cancer cases worldwide
9. Cancer Killed Almost 8 Million Worldwide in 2007
10. MCG selected as RNA laboratory for worldwide diabetes study
11. New report estimates 12 million cancer deaths worldwide
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Columbus Carried Syphilis From New World to Europe, Study Suggests
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... Global Healthcare Management’s 4th ... Park in Milford, NJ. This free event, sponsored by Global Healthcare Management’s CEO, ... The fun run is geared towards children of all ages; it is a non-competitive, ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... ... “The Journey: From the Mountains to the Mission Field”: the story of a ... “The Journey: From the Mountains to the Mission Field” is the creation of published ... all ages and currently teaches a class of ladies at her church, which she ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Planet Fitness, one of the largest and ... plans to open a flagship location in Covington, LA at 401 N. U.S. Highway ... store next to Office Depot in the Holiday Square shopping center. Its location allows ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... in post-acute health care, have expanded their existing home health joint venture through ... AccentCare has been operating a joint venture home health company with Asante, delivering ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... , ... October 12, 2017 , ... Leading pediatric oncology ... in Washington, D.C., for the 49th Congress of the International Society of Paediatric ... President of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... MENLO PARK, Calif. , Oct. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... a national scientific team that developed an innovative way ... and quantity of the delivery of new drugs. ... the 2017 Fall Clinical Dermatology Conference will show how ... Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School used a suite ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 10, 2017  NDS received FDA 510(k) clearance in May 2017 ... display stand specifically designed for endoscopy environments. An innovative secondary monitor ... clinical solution to support the improvement of patient outcomes, procedural efficiency, ... ... ...
(Date:10/4/2017)... Korea , Oct. 4, 2017  South Korean-based ... next-generation CPR training aide "cprCUBE" on Kickstarter. The device ... compression during cardiac arrests with better efficiency compared to ... also offers real-time feedback on efficacy of the compression ... crowdfunding campaign has a goal to raise $5,000. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: