Washington, Dec 29: In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the Atlantic ocean to discover America, but when he returned from his historic voyages he brought with him a new disease to Europe, claims a new study.
The study, based on new skeletal evidence, suggests that Columbus and crew not only introduced Old World to New World, but brought back syphilis as well.
Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria, and is usually curable nowadays with antibiotics. Untreated, it can damage the heart, brain, eyes and bones; it can also be fatal.
The first known epidemic of syphilis occurred during the Renaissance in 1495. Initially its plague broke out among the army of Charles VIII after the French king invaded Naples.
It then proceeded to devastate Europe, said researcher George Armelagos, a skeletal biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, who was the first to doubt the so-called Columbian theory for syphilis decades ago.
Critics have proposed that syphilis had always bedeviled the Old World but simply had not been set apart from other rotting diseases like leprosy until 1500 or so.