Link to article at PubMed

2023 May 30. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–.


Syphilis is a systemic bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum. Due to its many protean clinical manifestations, it has been named the “great imitator and mimicker.” The origin of syphilis has been controversial and under great debate, and many theories have been postulated regarding this.

The pre-Columbian theory looked at findings on skeletal markers of syphilis before 1490. However, there is insufficient proof, as evidenced by the DNA and paleopathology findings, to support the existence of syphilis before 1492.

The Columbian and most accepted theory postulates that syphilis came from Europe in the 1490s when Columbus arrived in the New World (America). Syphilis spread when Christopher Columbus arrived in Naples (Italy). After Naples lost the battle to the French troops, this new disease spread across Europe.

Syphilis remains a contemporary plague that continues to afflict millions of people worldwide.

The infection progresses through four stages and can affect many organ systems. Luckily, the causative organism is still sensitive to penicillin.

PMID:30521201 | Bookshelf:NBK534780

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