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Columbus Voyage Tied to Syphilis Spread?
Date:12/28/2011

>Treponema -- the bacteria that causes syphilis -- to Europe. This type of bacteria also causes other diseases that are spread through skin-to-skin or oral contact in tropical climates. Their theory is that the bacteria mutated into the sexually transmitted form to survive in the cooler and more sanitary conditions of Europe.

"In reality, it appears that venereal syphilis was the byproduct of two different populations meeting and exchanging a pathogen," Zuckerman said. "It was an adaptive event, the natural selection of a disease, independent of morality or blame."

The researchers said more study is needed to confirm their findings. "The origin of syphilis is a fascinating, compelling question," Zuckerman said. "The current evidence is pretty definitive, but we shouldn't close the book and say we're done with the subject. The great thing about science is constantly being able to understand things in a new light."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on syphilis.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Emory University, news release, Dec. 20, 2011


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