When researchers examine a particular sexually transmitted disease (STD), they usually try to trace it back to its origin to determine where it came from and potentially find clues as to how to treat it. Recently, scientists found out that syphilis, a condition that has been around for hundreds of years, was actually brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus and his crew when they returned from the “new world.”
Medical News Today reports that before this study, it was commonly believed that the disease had been around before the fateful voyage. However, European skeletons that appeared to have had the infection before Columbus’ time were misleading.
The current research, published in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology shows that Columbus and his crew brought the STD to Europe, where it evolved into what it is today.
“Syphilis has been around for 500 years … People started debating where it came from shortly afterwards, and they haven’t stopped since. It was one of the first global diseases, and understanding where it came from and how it spread may help us combat diseases today,” said researcher Molly Zuckerman, quoted by the news source.
Many researchers did not believe it was possible that a small group of sailors could have brought what turned into an epidemic to the European shores, but all evidence seems to point to Columbus and his men. The scientists believe that the skeletons that showed signs of syphilis and were believed to be from before 1492 (when Columbus made his journey) were improperly dated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this STD is fairly easy to cure in the early stages, but many people may not exhibit symptoms for years and may not seek treatment. If left unchecked, the disease may damage the brain and even cause death.