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Notable Notes
April 2011

The European Misdiagnosis of Syphilis

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Mangone, Italy.

Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(4):416. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.45

Since the beginning of the Modern Age, European physicians recognized syphilis but did not differentiate cutaneous syphilis from other known diseases. French physicians considered syphilis a bad smallpox, grosse vérole. In the 15th century, some physicians modified this term to grosse vayrolle or variola grossa and sometimes to variola croniqua or cronica, specie variolarum. Both vérole and its variations derive from the original Latin term varus, meaning pox, or from the original adjective varius, meaning spotted. During the 16th century, physicians considered syphilis a bad form of scabies; thus, the names scabies grossa, scabies mala, scabies epidemica, and glutinosa scabies.1

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