Columbus May Have Brought Syphilis To Europe From New World

Jul 2006

ScienceDaily (Jan. 15, 2008) — Did Columbus and his men introduce the syphilis pathogen into Renaissance Europe after contracting it during their voyage to the New World? Or does syphilis have a much longer history in the Old World? The most comprehensive comparative genetic analysis conducted on the family of bacteria (the treponemes) that cause syphilis and related diseases such as yaws supports the so-called "Columbian theory" of syphilis's origins.
Kristin Harper (Emory University, Atlanta, USA) approached this centuries-old debate by using phylogenetics -- the study of the evolutionary relatedness between organisms -- to study 26 geographically disparate strains of treponemes. The venereal syphilis-causing strains originated most recently, and their closest relatives were strains collected in South America that cause the treponemal disease yaws.
"That supports the hypothesis that syphilis -- or some progenitor -- came from the New World," Harper says.
Oct 2007
Southern Vermont
Very interesting. So if I understand correctly, the ancestor of syphilis traveled to Europe then became sexually transmitted?
Oct 2007
Southern Vermont
Many native peoples were rather promiscuous, though they had no taboos regarding it.


Historum Emeritas
Aug 2006
I wouldn't be surprised if he had it honestly, he raped and pillaged like any ol' pirate would.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2007
Yea, Many people died in Ottoman Empire due to syphilis - since it came from Europe, we call it "Frengi" which means "Frankish, European" .