Columbus Gave Europe Syphilis

Disease originated with explorer's return from New World
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2008 4:07 PM CST
Christopher Columbus may have brought back syphilis from the New World.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – New genetic evidence gives Christopher Columbus credit for bringing back a different sort of bounty from the New World—the scourge of syphilis. Columbus and his crew returned home with a sexually transmitted form of a disease native to South America, say Emory University researchers. Soon after, the first known syphilis epidemic ravaged Europe, LiveScience reports.

"The movement of diseases between Europeans and Native Americans is often seen as a one-way street," said one researcher. "But syphilis seems to be an example of a disease that went the other way." The study lends scientific credence to a theory long debated, though not all scientists agree with its findings.