Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Think We Already Knew This

About Columbus and Syphilis:

New genetic evidence supports the theory that Christopher Columbus brought syphilis to Europe from the New World, U.S. 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.

Worth noting that we don't think it was Columbus personally who brought it back: we know he didn't die of i and the disease was so virulent at that time that we do know who did die of it.

But that's the very ppint. Yes, there has been some controversy over this point but the vvery fact that it hit Europe with huge intensity immediately after Columbus' return has always been very strong evidence that his ships did bring it back. Even if it pre-existed in Europe, he brought back a different strain.

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