Scientists have figured out whether to blame Columbus in the spread of syphilis in Europe

Ученые выяснили, виноват ли Колумб в распространении сифилиса в Европе

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Syphilis appeared in Europe long before the discovery of America. The article, published in the journal Current Biolology, put an end to the dispute about distribution in the Old world this sexually transmitted infectious diseases.

For a long time the spread of syphilis in Europe was associated with the return in 1493 Christopher Columbus and his crew from the New world soon after their arrival on the continent raged, the first major epidemic of this sexually transmitted disease.

But there were other theories, the authors assumed that syphilis was sick in Europe and in the XIV century. However, due to lack of evidence, this view was considered just a hypothesis. A few years ago, researchers from the Vienna medical University (Austria) found in the ancient Austrian burial of the skeleton of the XIV century with the changes in the bones, typical of syphilis, writes Wissenschaft.

But because other diseases can cause similar changes, and at that time there was carried out a genetic analysis of the pathogen, this case was questionable.

Recently, however, scientists have made great strides. So, the team Kerttu Majander from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) investigated the genetic material of nine skeletons excavated from ancient tombs of Northern and Central Europe. In the remains of the XV-XVIII centuries, scientists searched for the DNA of the bacteria Treponema. And they found that searched for: traces of syphilis in the bones of the skeleton of a young man buried on the territory of modern Estonia long before the return of the famous sailor. As well as in the bones of two skeletons from Finland and one from Netherlands. A comparative analysis of the genetic composition of the pathogen showed that one of the dead suffered from yaws infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue, which is now widespread only in the tropics. However, the rest of the skeletons showed traces of the pathogen of syphilis.

Thus, this fact suggests that syphilis was in Europe before the return of Columbus, says Majander. With this statement, the authors of the work, does not contradict the assumption that the sailors brought to Europe the new strains of Treponema pallidum.

But Majander colleagues found something else interesting: in addition to syphilis and yaws in Europe, apparently, there was another subspecies of Treponema. In the DNA of the skeleton found buried in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, scientists discovered the pathogen, which is “genetic similarity with all modern subspecies of Treponema”. A comparison of genes suggests that this strain is the forerunner of today the existing yaws and syphilis. Accordingly, several subspecies of Treponema have been circulating in parallel among the European population of the late middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Today syphilis is a chronic infectious disease caused by a microorganism of the species Treponema pallidum. The disease is widespread almost all over the world, and every year it is diagnosed in millions of people. Infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, is mainly transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, but can also be transmitted by blood transfusion or from mother to her unborn child. In the early stages of the disease appear small pustules and ulcers, in the later can be affected joints, bones, internal organs and brain. However, the infection is treatable with antibiotics, especially in the early stages of its development.

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