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:2/12/2016)... FLA (PRWEB) , ... February 12, 2016 , ... Miami ... dental implants to their Miami dental office. Beginning in January, Miami Dental Specialists ... titanium. Miami Dental Specialists are the first office to be chosen by the dental ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... Atlantic ... for Health Plans and PBMs,” an upcoming Feb. 24 webinar that will discuss ... in big-dollar therapeutic categories, such as the $1,000-per-pill hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi and ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... ... Coast Autism Spectrum Center (CCASC) invites teens ages 11-18 to its annual Winter Teen Dance. ... and without special needs to gather in a safe and supportive environment. Volunteers will be ... place on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Elks Lodge, 322 Elks ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... With the exception of restorative dentistry, to date there has ... With the recent approval by the FDA, there is a now a new protocol in ... SDF is very simple and quick to apply. The application is as simple as ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... SPH Analytics announced ... analytics leader’s population health solutions, MDinsight® and IndiGO®, for its primary care clinicians. ... system. Details of the contract were not disclosed. , As the healthcare market ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... FRANCISCO , Feb. 11, 2016  Kindred Biosciences, ... on saving and improving the lives of pets, today ... Section of the New Animal Drug Application (NADA) for ... pivotal field study (KB0120) of Zimeta for the control ... the Company. --> --> ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... Feb. 11, 2016  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today ... 1,400 jobs throughout Western New York ... the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, includes a major expansion of ... Buffalo , as well as the ... in Dunkirk . The combined projects ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO , Feb. 11, 2016 Potrero ... system, is pleased to announce the appointment of George ... San Antonio, TX , WellMed is ... servicing over 200,000 patients and HMO members in ... founding WellMed in 1990 out of his own internal medicine ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: