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History of Syphilis: Between Poetry and Medicine

Authors

  • Ismael Maatouk MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Medicine of Saint Joseph University, Hôtel-Dieu de France University Hospital, Beirut, Lebanon
    • Corresponding Author: Ismaël Maatouk, Faculty of Medicine of Saint Joseph University, Hôtel-Dieu de France University Hospital, Beirut, Lebanon. Tel: +9613568968; Fax: +9619852217; E-mail: ismaelmaatouk@yahoo.com

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  • Roy Moutran MD

    1. Head of Dermatology Department, Mount Lebanon Hospital, Beirut, Lebanon
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Abstract

Introduction

The origin of syphilis is a matter of debate and two “historical” hypotheses explain its emergence.

Aim

We present here a review about syphilis history.

Methods

A review of literature about syphilis history using the following keywords: “syphilis,” “history,” and “treponema.”

Results

The Columbian opinion is that syphilis came from the New World (America) with the crews of Christopher Columbus's fleet. As Naples fell before the invading army of Charles the VIII in 1495, a plague broke out among the French leader's troops. When the army disbanded shortly after the campaign, the troops, composed largely of mercenaries, returned to their homes and disseminated the disease across Europe. Indeed, there were reports that indigenous peoples of the New World suffered from a similar condition.

Conclusion

Regardless of the Columbian and the Pre-Columbian theories, syphilis remains an international disease, growing nowadays with HIV infection. Despite history, politics, paleopathology and molecular approaches, the origin of the disease remains an enigma. Maatouk I and Moutran R. History of syphilis: Between poetry and medicine. J Sex Med 2014;11:307–310.

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