Was Syphilis a product of the Columbian Exchange or was it already in the new world, just waiting for something to set it off. The debate has raged for as long as syphilis plagued the globe. Where did it come from and how did it get so bad. We know how it got so bad, hormones and poverty. But we are not sure where it came from or where it started.
Maybe there was a climatic event that set it off, like global warming, a drought or even a mini ice age caused by a volcanic eruption. Or it could have come back from the Americas when Columbus returned.
At the time Columbus landed in the new world they brought many old world diseases the decimated the native population. Maybe Montezuma’s revenge was not diarrhea but syphilis. But there were a local disease that raised it ugly head at the same time the new world diseases were marching over the new world. So maybe syphilis did the same in the new world after Columbus came back.
Cocoliztli was a native disease that wiped out the native peoples after Columbus arrived in the New World. But it was a native disease, it was not imported from Europe.
Dr. Rodolfo Acuna-Soto scoured the original writings of Dr. Francisco Hernández, Physician-in Chief of New Spain where he described a disease from the new world. This has put a dent in the Jared Diamond “Guns Germs and Steel” theory, as this disease kill rate is around 80% and was native to the New World.
After the 1993 Hantavirus outbreaks in the south western desert areas of the US it might have come back. When the rains start falling in California after the drought, we might see a return of the Hantavirus, hopefully not in a similar situation to the epidemic that tried to wipe out Mexico.
Dr. Rodolfo Acuna-Soto was looking at disease descriptions in the ancient writing. And he never mentioned the symptoms of syphilis, as being another disease that nobody from Spain knew about. He picked up on the Cocoliztli because it had no Spanish name, therefore he assumed it was a local disease. If Syphilis was a local disease that had no Spanish name he might have picked that up also. So maybe it wasn’t there.
If the Spanish hadn’t destroyed all the literature of the Native peoples, there might have been references to the disease and a cure.
Syphilis might be like Ebola that has mutated into something more deadly that is now devastating central Africa. There might have been an event after Columbus came back to change something that caused Syphilis to become more virulent. Something that caused our immune system to go into underdrive thus giving syphilis more chance to invade. Or our social habits changed, or our living habits changed. Or the weather changed.
Ebola has been around for a long time but it has just got worse. The Justinian Plague that ended the Roman Empire could have been Ebola as the people from Africa seemed to be immune to it. That pandemic was part of a climate event, a mini winter where the sun didn’t shine very strong.
Cocoliztli was influenced by the weather so what change influenced the spread and severity of Syphilis.
It seems from the literature Syphilis started the blame game, with the French, Spanish and Naples all blaming each other for the disease. And not surprising with all the different armies trying to add little bits of land to whatever they already had. The winners take all and get a chance to spread an incurable disease around Europe. I don’t know if it started the theme of “No sex before marriage” but that might have been brought in, to try and stop the spread of the disease. The best description of the disease and how it affected society was from the BBC documentary History Cold Case https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=hftGJbPXo2w about the Crossbones Girl. (free on YouTube).
Here the program went into the social aspect of the disease and what some men did, to try and stop the disease. For a written account read http://www.planetslade.com/cross-bones-14.html it goes on for a few pages but it is very good. Poverty and ignorance played a big role in the spread of the disease. To survive young girls and women turned to prostitution. Even though it was known to be transmitted by sex and prostitution, men still knowingly paid to get syphilis basically. Thus helping the spread. And with no cure, unrelenting poverty and unprotected sex syphilis turned into the curse of the last 500 years until penicillin was discovered.
In summary we are lucky we have antibiotics but what are we going to do when they become ineffective.