The first recorded epidemic of syphilis occurred in Europe in 1495 or 3 years after Columbus returned from the voyage to discover the New World. Scientists have long suspected that the journey is the source of the spread of disease.
Lack of evidence supporting this theory led to this conjecture is not much echoed widely.There are skeletal remains of the Old World and New World which allegedly showed signs of syphilis infection has occurred before the voyage of Columbus.
But a new analysis of the evidence that bone conducted by researchers at Emory University finally closed the case.
“The case has been evaluated in a systematic manner. Evidence continues to accumulate and assert that the common ancestor of syphilis came from the New World by Columbus and the crew quickly become a venereal disease around us today,” said researcher George Armelagos.
According to Armelagos and his colleagues, most of the evidence submitted failed because it did not meet any of the standard diagnostic criteria of syphilis: the hole in the skull and long bones, known as caries sicca.
For cases that do not meet these criteria, there are reasons that explain why this could occur. All of these cases originated from the coastal regions where seafood is commonly consumed foods.
This kind of environment can throw radiocarbon through what is called ‘marine reservoir effect’, where seafood contaminated by older carbon brought to the surface by strong ocean currents.
After this effect was tested in radiocarbon analysis, all evidence of bone that is found to match with the time that supports the theory that syphilis came from Columbus trip.
“Once we adjust to these signs, all frames of show with certainty that the disease seems to occur after Columbus returned to Europe,” said one contributor to the study, as reported MNN.com Kristin Harper.
It’s hard to believe that a small group of sailors, perhaps even Columbus himself, could be one source of the most devastating plague of Europe at that time. These findings show how vulnerable the human population when there are new diseases that attack.
“Syphilis has been around for 500 years. People started debating where it came some time later, and they do not stop because this is one of the first global disease. Understanding where it came from and how its spread can help us fight the disease today,” said Molly Zuckerman , the other contributors in the research.
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