Entries in Syphilis (3)


Porn Actor Tests Positive for Syphilis

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A porn actor's positive syphilis test has prompted an industry-wide moratorium on adult film production.

The Free Speech Coalition, a porn industry trade group, has asked movie producers to suspend work on X-rated films and videos while actors get tested and treated for the sexually-transmitted bacterial infection.

"I always appreciate how our industry comes together in a time of need," Diane Duke, the group's executive director, said in a statement. "Clearly our industry's priority is the health and well-being of our performers."

Doctors from the coalition's Adult Production Health and Safety Services will test all porn performers for syphilis using the rapid plasma reagin test -- a screening test that spots infection-induced antibodies. They will also administer prophylactic antibiotics to protect uninfected performers from the disease.

"Once the performer receives antibiotics, he or she will be available to work within 10 days," the coalition said in a statement, adding that several porn production companies have offered to cover the cost of syphilis testing and treatment.

The decision on when to lift the production moratorium will be made "as more information is revealed," according to the coalition.

The signs and symptoms of syphilis -- from painless sores on the genitals or mouth to skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes -- can take years to emerge, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if left untreated, the disease can lead to numbness, paralysis, blindness, dementia, and even death.

While less common than Chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis cases are on the rise in California. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of syphilis cases jumped 18 percent, according to data from the state Department of Public Health obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The syphilis scare comes less than a year after a porn actor's positive HIV test halted adult film production, prompting calls for mandatory condom use in X-rated shoots.

"There really cannot be an argument over the fact that these performers would be far safer if they used condoms," Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told ABC News at the time.

Subsequent testing revealed the HIV test result was a false positive. Nevertheless, the foundation plans to highlight the syphilis incident on a Nov. 6 ballot measure mandating condom use in L.A. porn production, according to a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Did Europe Get Syphilis From Columbus?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s the side of the Christopher Columbus story that you won’t find in grade school history books, and it’s a theory that continues to raise the ire of some historians.

Specifically, some researchers believe that Columbus brought syphilis to Europe, along with the cocoa, tobacco, spices and other booty he hauled back from the Americas. At the forefront of this hypothesis is Kristin Harper, a Health and Society Scholar at -- somewhat ironically -- Columbia University in New York.

The analysis adds to previous work done on the topic by Harper and her colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. The difference is that this time Harper, co-author Molly K. Zuckerman and others said they reviewed all 54 published reports of diseases similar to syphilis detected in the Old World in the years before Columbus came back from the New World.

What they claim to have found is that none of these accounts provide evidence that the cases documented were both truly syphilis and occurred before Columbus’ return to Europe. By eliminating these cases, the researchers say their work strengthens the argument for the Columbian theory of syphilis -- in short, that the disease hitched a ride back on one of Columbus’ vessels.

The theory that Columbus’ crew brought this bacterium home with them to Europe is not at all new; it’s an idea that can be seen in Spanish accounts from the 16th century. But it’s a theory that has angered some -- and it is also not the only theory out there for how the disease arose in Europe.

Notably, some researchers believe evidence shows the disease may have existed in Europe long before Columbus set out across the sea to the New World, but that it was misdiagnosed at the time as leprosy. Others say it may have existed in one form or another in the Old World and simply spread more rampantly during Columbus’ time because of relatively rapid changes in hygiene and urbanization in Europe. Opponents of the Columbian hypothesis cite accounts of a similar disease that predate Columbus by centuries, and many researchers also point to a purported case of the illness in a 13th-century Augustinian friary in England.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gov't Commission Finds 83 Guatemalans Died in US-Led Experiments

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A commission set up last year by President Obama has revealed that 83 Guatemalans died in U.S. government research that infected hundreds of prisoners, prostitutes, and mental patients with the syphilis bacteria to study the drug penicillin -- a project that the group called "a shameful piece of medical history."

"The report is good and I applaud the Obama administration for giving it some sunshine," said Dr. Howard Markel, a pediatrician and medical historian from the University of Michigan.  "Internationally, what we do as a human society is to make sure that these things never happen again."

But medical ethicists say that even if today's research is not as egregious as the Guatemala experiment, American companies are still testing drugs on poor, sometimes unknowing populations in the developing world.

Many, like Markel, note that experimenting with AIDS drugs in Africa and other pharmaceutical trials in Third World countries, "goes on every day."

"It's not good enough, in my opinion, to protect only people who live in the developed world -- but all human beings," he said.

The U.S. Public Health Service and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau worked with several Guatemalan government agencies from 1946 to 1948, exposing nearly 1,300 people to the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis, gonorrhea, or chancroid.  They infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients -- more than 5,500 people in all were part of the medical experimentation.  

The presidential panel said government scientists knew they were violating ethical rules.

Scientists wanted to see if penicillin, which was a relatively new drug, could prevent infections.  The research was paid for with U.S. tax dollars and culled no useful medical information.

This week, the Obama commission revealed that only 700 of them received treatment and 83 died by 1953.  The commission could not confirm whether the deaths were a direct cause of those infections.

In the 1940s, syphilis was a major health threat, causing blindness, insanity and even death.  Many of the same researchers had carried out studies on prisoners in Terre Haute, Indiana, but unlike the Guatemalan research, they gave consent.

For years, the experiments were secret, until Susan M. Reverby, a medical historian at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, found the records of Dr. John Cutler, who led the experiments.  A federal commission to learn more was set up last year.

President Obama has apologized to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.  A final report is due in December.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio