• Paleopathology;
  • Spirochetes;
  • Yaws;
  • Endemic syphilis;
  • Arthritides;
  • Immunity


A convergence of evidence from macroscopic, radiographic and histologic examination indicates that treponemal infection was present in the 16ST1 Tchefuncte Indian burial population, dated 500 B.C. to 300 A.D. Pattern and nature of lesions suggests that chronic infection induced by variants of the spirochete Treponema pallidum, causing endemic syphilis and/or yaws, resulted in third-stage osseous response. It is suggested that Tchefuncte Indians acquired partial immunity to treponemal infection by exposure to a variant of the related spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. Partial immunity would help explain the relatively mild expression of the treponemal disease process in the 16ST1 skeletal population and the apparent absence of venereal syphilis. Presence of the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete might be linked to a single incidence of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.