[LMB] OT: AKICOTL: Hawai'ian souvenirs

Claire Nollet cnollet at gmail.com
Sun Nov 8 22:42:30 GMT 2009

On Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 5:06 PM, Alex Haropulos <aharo at erols.com> wrote:

> Ed Burkhead wrote:
> > Claire wrote:
> >
> >> You could exploit some natives and give them syphilis,
> >> but I don't suppose that would be very festive.
> >>
> >
> >
> > Actually, evidence seems to show that the chain went the other way.
> >
> Last I looked, there still seemed to be some debate about this. The
> exploration of the New World was almost simultaneous with the
> exploration of sub-Saharan Africa. Since yaws and leprosy are both
> spirochete diseases from Africa, the suggestion has been made that
> syphilis is also African in origin.
> Europeans did, however, donate smallpox and measles to the New World.
> Evidence points to the New World giving us tuberculosis in return.
> Alex H

Yes, there are pre-Columbian skeletons in Europe that show bone damage
consistent with syphilis, Treponema palladium, but some people say it was
yaws, Treponema pertenue.  There's evidence that yaws existed in Europe
since at least biblical times.  It's speculated that the existing yaws may
have mutated into a form syphilis right around the time of Columbus.

Others say it might be that the strain of syphilis imported from the New
World was more virulent than existing European strains, because there are
reports of post-Columbian European outbreaks of syphilis in which the
sufferers died horrible deaths in a matter of weeks from a fulminant form of
the disease.  If so, this strain eventually adapted itself to the population
so it wouldn't kill people so quickly.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis has been found in Egyptian skeletons,
pre-Columbian Native American skeletons, and in Neanderthal skeletons.  It's
a disease our species seems to have suffered from for well over 100,000
years at the minimum.

Leprosy is not a sphirochete disease, BTW.  It's another mycobacterium
species, Mycobacterium leprae.  The mycobacterium species are characterized
by thick mucous coats around the bacillus, making it very difficult for the
immune system to break into.

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list