Syphilis-causing germs were already established in Brazil two thousand years ago


Would you say that it is from Europe to the United States or vice versa?

There has been much discussion and controversy among the scientific community about the condition known as syphilis. Treponema pallidum may have been prevalent in indigenous communities for a significant amount of time prior to the advent of Christopher Columbus, according to a finding that was uncovered at an archaeological site in South Carolina.

In human bone remains that date back 2,000 years, an international team of researchers identified signs of bacteria belonging to the species Treponema pallidum, which is responsible for syphilis, according to an article that was published by the scientific magazine Nature on Wednesday (24/ 01). The discovery was published in the journal Nature. An archaeological site in Santa Catarina was the location where these bones were found.

Transmission of syphilis occurs via sexual contact; if the disease is not treated, it may result in dementia and even death. Syphilis can be passed on through sexual contact. In the year 1493, while French troops were besieging Naples, the first recorded occurrence of the sickness in Europe was reported. This occurred during the invasion of Naples. Many people believe that the illness was introduced to the continent by the crew of Christopher Columbus. This is one of the stories that has achieved widespread recognition. The fact that it was already existent in the Old World but had not yet been given a name was a piece of knowledge that was transmitted by other individuals.

The results of the current analysis provide support to the hypothesis that the infectious agent was first discovered in the United States of America. “It is the most compelling and robust proof that Treponema existed in South America before the arrival of Columbus, a hypothesis that until now had not been validated,” says Fernando González Candelas, a professor of genetics at the University of Valencia, who is also a co-author of the research. Gundelas is also a co-author of the paper.

Due to the fact that earlier research found indirect evidence in human remains from Central America that “were compatible with treponematoses, but also with other diseases,” Candelas highlights that there was a lack of definitive proof regarding the geographic spread of syphilis. This was the case because of the fact that the evidence was found in human remains.
At least five hundred years before to the arrival of Christopher Columbus In the Santa Catarina region of Laguna, the DNA that was discovered at the Jabuticabeira II archaeological site sheds light on the complex origin of the treponematoses syphilis, bejel (which is endemic and non-venereal), and piã or yaws (which is transmitted through contact with the skin). T. pallidum, which is responsible for these treponematoses, may be broken down into many subgroups.

During the process of reconstructing the genome of the pathogen that was responsible for infecting the dead from the sambaqui in Santa Catarina, it was found that the subspecies of T. pallidum endemicum was the one that was responsible for the deaths of the victims. “What we found is a bacterium from the bejel lineage, which nowadays is found in arid, dry and hot climates, very different from Brazil 2,000 years ago, with a tropical and humid climate” , as described by González Candelas.

In light of this, the discovery lends credence to the hypothesis that the pre-Columbian civilizations in America were plagued by treponemal illnesses, and thus, the diseases were already existing in the New World for a considerable amount of time prior to the time when Christopher Columbus set sail for his “discoveries.”


The study does not identify the origin of the bacteria that are responsible for syphilis, nor is it able to prove that the germs really came in Europe with the crew of Christopher Columbus. Neither of these things are possible. Based on the findings of the research that was carried out by the same researchers and published in the year 2020, it was stated that there was a “reasonable” probability that T. pallidum had been identified on the European continent prior to the expeditions that were carried out in the United States.

Between the beginning of the 15th century and the 18th century, human remains from Finland, Estonia, and the Netherlands were discovered to have traces of treponematosis. These remains were recovered in each of these countries. The theory was supported by these remains, which were provided. It is possible that the people would have been affected by syphilis and pian, both of which are illnesses that are now exclusively present in tropical and subtropical regions. These diseases would have been encountered by the humans.

According to González Candelas, a geneticist, “we cannot establish that it was before the return of Columbus’s first expedition [in 1492].” This would mean that it would be demonstrated “with genomic evidence” that syphilis was prevalent in Europe during the whole of the Modern Age time period.

It would be necessary, however, to look for indications of syphilis infection prior to the trips to the United States of America and “see if this lineage appears next in Europe, exactly the same.” This would be necessary in order to accomplish this goal. On the other hand, this turned out not to be the case up to this point.


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