Plagues and Peoples
Syphilis (Text. Chpt.12, C.R. 1025-1032)
Chapter 12: The Great Pox Syphilis (255)
- Tuskegee Syphilis Study: 1932, US Public Health Service enlisted 399 poor, black males in
Macon County, Alabama, all with latent syphilis. They were offered financial incentives (ex: free
burial if agreed to autopsy) free physical exams, and aspirin when needed. Men and family not told
they had syphilis. They were deprived of treatment for their syphilis. 28 men died of syphilis, 100
others died of related complications, 40 wives infected, and 19 children. Designed to document the
natural history of syphilis, but went terribly wrong.
A Look Back
- From 1493 onward swept over Europe and the rest of the world.
-1494: King Charles Vlll of France invades Italy. During the attack, his troops, fell ill with the Greart
Pox, and this forced their withdrawal. Following this, the disease spread throughout Europe and
spread to the rest of the world.
- Theory: Brought to Naples by the Spanish troops sent to support against attack from King Charles
- The French called this pox “the disease of Naples”, blaming the Italians for it, and the Italians
called it ”the French Disease”. In England called it the “Spanish Disease”
- Symptoms: fevers, open sores, disfiguring scars, disabling pains in the joints, and gruesome deaths.
- Two theories of how Charles VII’s men caught the disease: Columbian and pre-Columbian/anti-
- Columbian Theory: Introduced to Europe from the New World – Columbian Theory
Skeletal remains from the Americas
The pattern of spread of the disease
- pre-Columbian Theory/Anti-Columbian: holds that syphilis was present in Europe before the
discovery of the Americas by Europeans.
Unitarian versus non-unitarian theory
Many populations of native Americans themselves were
decimated by syphilis in the 16th century after the arrival of the Europeans
- Theories for the rapid outbreak of syphilis: (1) kissing (because that was the greeting in England),
shared drinks, canker on lips misunderstood to be cold sore.
- Tried Mercury for the treatment; either applied directly to sores or taken in the form of a drink.
Treatment known as “salivation”.
Spirochete Discovered (260)
- Girolamo Fracastoro called disease syphilis after a fictitious shepherd, named Syphilis, who got it
by cursing the gods.
- Frit Schaudinn and Erich Hoffman identified slender, spiral-shaped bacterium, a spirochete, in the
syphilitic chancres (a dull red, hard, insensitive lesion that is the first manifestation of syphilis).
- Baciteria: Treponema pallidum
- Can be growin in lab animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs, but humans are the only natural
- Took so long to discover bacteria because syphilis was confused with gonorrhoea at the time.
The Disease Syphilis (262)