Relationship of Christopher Columbus to Spread of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Bruce M. Rothschild, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(8):1730. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400200152039.
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To the Editor.—  I was fascinated by Hoenig's article1 on the arthritis of Columbus. I have always found it extremely difficult to extrapolate from the nuances of early descriptions suggestive of articular disorders. I agree that Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis) and Behçet's syndrome are considerations. Rheumatoid arthritis can be excluded, not simply on the basis of description, but actually based on the archeologic record.Rheumatoid arthritis actually appears to have originated in the New World.2 Rheumatoid arthritis has not been documented in the Old World prior to 1785,3-7 contrasting with documentation in multiple pre-Columbian New World populations.8-13 It has been identified in 6500 to 450 years before present Indian groups, from west central Kentucky and Tennessee and northwest Alabama and Tennessee.8-13 This original catchment area expanded into Ohio only in the past 1000 years.10,13 Initially localized to the area immediately surrounding the west branch


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