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Advancing the understanding of treponemal disease in the past and present


Baker, Brenda J; Crane‐Kramer, Gillian; Dee, Michael W; Gregoricka, Lesley A; Henneberg, Maciej; Lee, Christine; Lukehart, Sheila A; Mabey, David C; Roberts, Charlotte A; Stodder, Ann L W; Stone, Anne C; Winingear, Stevie (2020). Advancing the understanding of treponemal disease in the past and present. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 171(S70):5-41.

Abstract

Syphilis was perceived to be a new disease in Europe in the late 15th century, igniting a debate about its origin that continues today in anthropological, historical, and medical circles. We move beyond this age-old debate using an interdisciplinary approach that tackles broader questions to advance the understanding of treponemal infection (syphilis, yaws, bejel, and pinta). How did the causative organism(s) and humans co-evolve? How did the related diseases caused by Treponema pallidum emerge in different parts of the world and affect people across both time and space? How are T. pallidum subspecies related to the treponeme causing pinta? The current state of scholarship in specific areas is reviewed with recommendations made to stimulate future work. Understanding treponemal biology, genetic relationships, epidemiology, and clinical manifestations is crucial for vaccine development today and for investigating the distribution of infection in both modern and past populations. Paleopathologists must improve diagnostic criteria and use a standard approach for recording skeletal lesions on archaeological human remains. Adequate contextualization of cultural and environmental conditions is necessary, including site dating and justification for any corrections made for marine or freshwater reservoir effects. Biogeochemical analyses may assess aquatic contributions to diet, physiological changes arising from treponemal disease and its treatments (e.g., mercury), or residential mobility of those affected. Shifting the focus from point of origin to investigating who is affected (e.g., by age/sex or socioeconomic status) and disease distribution (e.g., coastal/ inland, rural/urban) will advance our understanding of the treponemal disease and its impact on people through time.

Abstract

Syphilis was perceived to be a new disease in Europe in the late 15th century, igniting a debate about its origin that continues today in anthropological, historical, and medical circles. We move beyond this age-old debate using an interdisciplinary approach that tackles broader questions to advance the understanding of treponemal infection (syphilis, yaws, bejel, and pinta). How did the causative organism(s) and humans co-evolve? How did the related diseases caused by Treponema pallidum emerge in different parts of the world and affect people across both time and space? How are T. pallidum subspecies related to the treponeme causing pinta? The current state of scholarship in specific areas is reviewed with recommendations made to stimulate future work. Understanding treponemal biology, genetic relationships, epidemiology, and clinical manifestations is crucial for vaccine development today and for investigating the distribution of infection in both modern and past populations. Paleopathologists must improve diagnostic criteria and use a standard approach for recording skeletal lesions on archaeological human remains. Adequate contextualization of cultural and environmental conditions is necessary, including site dating and justification for any corrections made for marine or freshwater reservoir effects. Biogeochemical analyses may assess aquatic contributions to diet, physiological changes arising from treponemal disease and its treatments (e.g., mercury), or residential mobility of those affected. Shifting the focus from point of origin to investigating who is affected (e.g., by age/sex or socioeconomic status) and disease distribution (e.g., coastal/ inland, rural/urban) will advance our understanding of the treponemal disease and its impact on people through time.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Anatomy
Social Sciences & Humanities > Anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Anatomy, Anthropology
Language:English
Date:1 May 2020
Deposited On:19 Feb 2020 15:49
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 13:35
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0002-9483
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23988
PubMed ID:31956996

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