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In experiments with rabbits, with the necessary conditions kept under control, it has been estimated that no more than one or two spirochetes are needed to produce disease. The larger the number introduced, the shorter will be the interval between inoculation and the first symptoms.
Children with non venereal treponematoses live in areas where contact is uninhibited, for climatic or other reasons. The contact is skin to skin in humid tropical countries where children go naked, or mouth to skin (or mouth to finger to skin or elsewhere) in drier or cooler places where clothing is used but where what we think of as hygienic conditions are primitive.
If we could grow Treponema pallidum in culture we could, for one thing, more easily decide whether the different treponematoses are actually caused by different spirochetes. In the meantime we cannot effectively dispose of an argument put forward especially by Ellis H.
We recognize four diseases, and since they differ, we say we have four spirochetes (although, inconsistently enough, we call two of them by the same name). We assume that the three spirochetes are different; but no specialist in this field, shown any one of them under any microscope, could tell it apart from the others.
In order to understand the theory of the origin of syphilis which has been put forward in opposition to: the one involving a fifteenth century origin, we must now get down to some details about syphilis, and compare it with the second group of diseases the related but nonvenereal diseases. While we do this we will also be getting at something that is obviously important to us, namely, the nature and characteristics of syphilis itself.
Awestruck raises the matter of confusion of syphilis with leprosy and dismisses it, comparing the symptoms of leprosy as Avicenna (980 1037 A.D.) gave them with those Awestruck knew for syphilis. Leprosy, he had decided, was contracted by an error of diet, not by infection; and leprosy was incurable. Lumping all venereal disease together, he even argues against the occurrence in ancient times of VD that was evidently not syphilis:
Making due allowance for the viewpoint of an Englishman of the Victorian period, we can nevertheless imagine a combination of circumstances the new diffusion of knowledge and the liberation of thought; the movement of large groups of people across national boundaries, and the sexual relaxation that evidently followed the terrible mortality from the Black Death a century and a half earlier (as well as the promiscuous sexual activity that is always a companion of war) to give us a vastly better basis for the rapid spread of VD, from many smoldering centers, than the notion that it could all have started from one point, in Naples in 1494.
The clue may lie in the nature of the Renaissance, in historical circumstances which John Addington Symonds, the English scholar of the late nineteenth century, says "every schoolboy knows." But I suspect that in the electronic age schoolboys (and schoolgirls, who didn't count for much then) have less patience with such things.
Evidence which modern authors, including Pusey, who support the Columbian theory, put forward as presumably the last word on this subject, is that of alleged syphilitic bones, which they tell us are numerous in pre Columbian America but absent in Europe during the same period. The record, however, is one of the most confused areas of the whole subject, with the experts taking exactly opposite views.
Buret tells us that the first written allusion to the Columbus story was by a German, Leonard Schmaus, dated 1518, and was little more than the reflection of a contemporary superstition based on the report of another German, Nicolas Poll, a year earlier. Poll had argued that since guaiac, which came from Hispaniola, was the reported cure, "Providence always places the remedy next to the disease."