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New study blames Columbus for syphilis spread [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2008-1-17 14:56:13 |Display all floors
New study blames Columbus for syphilis spread
(Agencies)
Updated: 2008-01-17 08:26


CHICAGO - New genetic evidence supports the theory that Christopher Columbus brought syphilis to Europe from the New World, US researchers said Monday, reviving a centuries-old debate about the origins of the disease.

They said a genetic analysis of the syphilis family tree reveals that its closest relative was a South American cousin that causes yaws, an infection caused by a sub-species of the same bacteria.

"Some people think it is a really ancient disease that our earliest human ancestors would have had. Other people think it came from the New World," said Kristin Harper, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

"What we found is that syphilis or a progenitor came from the New World to the Old World and this happened pretty recently in human history," said Harper, whose study appears in journal Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Diseases.

She said the study lends credence to the "Columbian theory," which links the first recorded European syphilis epidemic in 1495 to the return of Columbus and his crew.

"When you put together our genetic data with that epidemic in Naples in 1495, that is pretty strong support for the Columbian hypothesis," she said.

Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, starts out as a sore, but progresses to a rash, fever, and eventually can cause blindness, paralysis and dementia.

Most recent evidence of its origins comes from skeletal remains found in both the New World and the Old World. Chronic syphilis can leave telltale lesions on bone. "It has a worm-eaten appearance," Harper said in a telephone interview.

SYPHILIS FAMILY TREE

Harper used an approach that examines the evolutionary relationships between organisms known as phylogenetics. She looked at 26 strains of Treponema, the family of bacteria that give rise to syphilis and related diseases like bejel and yaws, typically a childhood disease that is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.

The study included two strains of yaws from remote areas of Guyana in South America that had never been sequenced before.

"We sequenced 21 different regions trying to find DNA changes between the strains," Harper said.

They concluded that while yaws is an ancient infection, venereal syphilis came about fairly recently. Harper suspects a nonvenereal subspecies of the tropical disease quickly evolved into venereal syphilis that could survive in the cooler, European climate.

But it is not clear how this took place. "All we can say is the ancestor of syphilis came from the New World, but what exactly it was like, we don't know," she said.

In a commentary published in the same journal, Connie Mulligan of the University of Florida and colleagues disagreed with Harper's analysis, suggesting her conclusions relied too heavily on genetic changes from the Guyana samples.

Mulligan suggested that better clues would come from DNA extracted from ancient bones or preserved tissues.

Harper concedes that more work needs to be done to explain the journey of syphilis to the New World. "This is a grainy photograph," she said.


http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2008-01/17/content_6400355.htm


Christopher Columbus in an undated image courtesy of the Library of Congress. New genetic evidence supports the theory that Columbus brought syphilis to Europe from the New World, US researchers said on Monday, reviving a centuries-old debate about the origins of the disease. [Agencies]
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Post time 2008-1-17 15:03:35 |Display all floors
Here is a picture of this spreader of VD. How ugly!
syphilis spreader.jpg
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Post time 2008-1-17 15:17:33 |Display all floors
We already knew this anyway.

The Europeans introduced many contagious diseases, such as smallpox and STIs, to the native Americans

They were the filthiest and disease ridden nations at that time -- just read up on their history.
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Post time 2008-1-17 23:21:05 |Display all floors
Why do you respond to your own comments?
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It has been long known that it was brought back by early explorers, but it is very interesting to be able to track down the exact timing of its European introduction .

Another interesting fact, is that syphilis used to be a minor ailment that Native Americans were completely resistant to. Most contracted it in childhood, with resulting symptoms mirroring that of a cold. It only became dangerous after repeatedly mutating within coastal cities of the UK and Europe.

Large population centers with poor sanitation/hygeine produce all kinds of virilent bugs. Many civilizations throughout history have completely disappeared, possibly due to similar circumstances.

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Post time 2008-1-18 01:22:06 |Display all floors
Originally posted by cbcronin at 2008-1-17 23:21
Why do you respond to your own comments?
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It has been long known that it was brought back by early explorers, but it is very interesting to be able to track down the exact timing of  ...


Well, aren't you a silly person? You have just responded to it.

Anyway, I do comment on what I post as I know that not everyone is intelligent enough to understand what is posted.

Going back to the article in question: I propose that it was the Europeans that introduced syphilis to the New World. Of course they would try their best to pass the blame on to others just like they have done with AIDs.
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Post time 2008-1-18 01:39:26 |Display all floors

Hm... reminds me of the old joke...

... Europe got Tobacco and America got Alcohol.
China's Eccentric 'Uncle Laowai' from Chicago, IL

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Post time 2008-1-18 04:51:43 |Display all floors
Originally posted by gotohell at 2008-1-17 12:22
Going back to the article in question: I propose that it was the Europeans that introduced syphilis to the New World. Of course they would try their best to pass the blame on to others just like they have done with AIDs.  
That is a very interesting statement..... you suggest we should believe the findings of science when it supports your agenda (to denegrate Westerners), but we should ignore it in the case of AIDS because you wish us to believe it was introduced by Westerners (when the original strain has actually been traced to chimps).

I am glad positions like yours exist; It allows those of us wishing to exist in reality a reference point, with which to judge our sanity.

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