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March 7, 1977

Columbus' Voyage and Syphilis

Author Affiliations

Pinelands, South Africa

JAMA. 1977;237(10):961. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270370033014

To the Editor.—  The medical notes on Columbus' first trip to America (236:1598, 1976), by their very nature, have interest for the inquiring mind and, naturally, where there is doubt, questions arise. One particular question that emerges fleetingly is related to the statement of Lopez that the discovery of America marks the finding of two items of medical significance. The first is tobacco, found by Columbus in Cuba during the first trip. The second is syphilis. Although the place of its origin is still argued, it is accepted by most that it came from America and that it was taken to Europe by Columbus's sailors on their return from the first trip.For this statement, Lopez cites three references. Lopez also mentions that "the note from Las Casas about sores in Navidad raises the possibility that some of the crew already had been affected with the disease at that time."However,