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Christopher Columbus brought syphilis back from the New World

The theory that syphilis originated in the New World has been around for a while, but new analysis of 54 Old World skeletons has confirmed the suspicions.

But scientists have yet to fully agree about how it all started, Amrelagos said, with arguments beginning soon after Columbus’ return to Europe was followed in 1495 by a syphilis outbreak in Italy — the first documented epidemic of the disease in the Old World.

Since then, some researchers have argued that syphilis bacteria had long been present in Europe at low levels, and that some unknown force triggered an outbreak in the late fifteenth century.

Others, including Armelagos, argue that the only skeletons showing evidence of infection with syphilis before 1492 were in the New World.

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Story: Emily Sohn, Discovery News | Photo: Corbis

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