Syphilis: Its History and World Impact
The history of syphilis is one of irresponsibility, mythology and more recently, scientific insight. Pseudo-Descartian (defined as I think, therefore I publish) mythology has until now precluded any cogent discussion of where the disease originated and who was responsible for its spread. Evidence-based research now allows clear separation of syphilis from others in its class of treponematosis. Examination of skeletons from populations with clinically diagnosed bejel and yaws revealed bone alterations distinctive to those diseases and clearly separating them from syphilis. These insights allowed confident identification, for the first time, of the New World origin of syphilis and indeed, the smoking gun in the Dominican Republic. Thus, the role of Columbus crew in transmitting syphilis from the New World to the Old is confirmed. Finally, the impact of syphilis on history is explored, ranging from character assassination to potential effect on artistic expression and on the madness that enveloped the third to fifth decades of the last century.
Keywords: syphilis, yaws, bejel, columbus, evidence-based diagnosis
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