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We’ll talk about a very well-known condition called syphilis, the bacterium that causes it, as well as the signs, symptoms, and treatment that is associated with it. We’ll also look into which famous historical figure suffered from this disease.

The Disease That Killed Al Capone

Al Capone was probably the world’s most famous gangster. He ruled the streets of Chicago like they were his own.

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They were his own, in a way, since no one could stop him, at first. They were also as much his own as a disease he had that eventually killed him.While the law imprisoned Capone on tax evasion charges, it was Mother Nature that exerted its cruelest punishment upon his body and eventually killed him as a result of the symptoms and signs associated with the disease we’re going to talk about.

Syphilis

Al Capone’s life developed in stages, just like his death. Remember that for later. Scarface was just a little thug at first, but eventually ran bootlegging operations, probably ordered the St.

Valentine’s Day Massacre and eventually became the most powerful Mafioso in the country.After a while, he was sent to Alcatraz as a result of some hard work on the part of the government, including The Untouchables, headed by the famous crime fighter Eliot Ness. But, what Capone didn’t know is that he would have to pay for a crime that had nothing to do with tax evasion, bootlegging or murder.He would pay for his love of women, because somewhere during his youth, he contracted syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic bacterium.

The bacterium responsible for causing syphilis is known as Treponema pallidum.

Transmission, Symptoms and Signs

This disease, and the bacterium that causes it, is transmitted through any sexual contact, including oral, vaginal and anal. It’s likely that Capone contracted syphilis after visiting a prostitute. However, syphilis can also be transmitted when a pregnant woman passes the infection on to her unborn child, who may die if left untreated. Regardless, after getting infected, Capone would’ve gone through several stages of syphilis before it killed him.The primary stage of syphilis results is a non-itchy, firm and painless sore, called a chancre, where the bacterium entered the body.

Again, it’s usually painless and may actually go unnoticed. Eventually, this sore disappears after 3-6 weeks. If the person isn’t treated at this stage, the secondary stage begins.During the secondary stage of infection, sores may appear on the mucous membranes of the body, such as the mouth, anus or genital regions. Notably, there will be a non-itchy rash, especially at the palms of a person’s hands and the soles of their feet.

Other symptoms and signs include muscle aches, a fever, fatigue and patchy hair loss. If not treated at this point, syphilis enters the latent and late stages of the infection.This is what did Capone in. Since he couldn’t or didn’t get treatment for syphilis early enough, Al Capone completely forgot about his disease after the secondary stage.

That’s because the disease enters a latent and completely symptom-free stage for years thereafter. Scarface probably thought he’d just beaten whatever weird infection he got, just like he’d beaten back the law and other mobsters for so many years, and he never thought about it again until it was too late.After the latent stage is over, the late stages of the disease begin. This is where people have trouble walking, go blind, experience dementia and eventually suffer from nervous system and organ failure, which results in their death, including Capone’s.

Treatment for Syphilis

Today, syphilis is treated with antibiotics, or drugs that kill bacteria, such as Treponema pallidum. While these drugs will get the bacterium and cure syphilis, they will not reverse any damage the syphilis-inducing bacteria may have caused.

That’s why it’s super critical that people get treated for syphilis right away.In addition, treatment is only half the battle. Practicing safe sex and getting tested for syphilis is just as important in preventing the onset of any problems in the first place.

Lesson Summary

So, poor Capone eventually died, and that ended what was probably the American mob’s golden age. Capone was done in, not by a rat, but by syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic bacterium.

The bacterium responsible for causing syphilis is known as Treponema pallidum.The primary stage of syphilis results in a non-itchy, firm and painless sore, called a chancre, where the bacterium entered the body. If the person isn’t treated at this stage, the secondary stage begins. During the secondary stage of infection, a skin rash and sores may appear on the mucous membranes of the body, such as the mouth, anus or genital regions. If not treated at this point, syphilis enters the latent and late stages of the infection.

The latent stage may last for years, if not decades, and is asymptomatic.After the latent stage is over, the late stages of the disease begin. This is where people have trouble walking, go blind, experience dementia and eventually suffer from nervous system and organ failure that results in their death, including Capone’s.

Had Capone been alive today, he would’ve been warned about practicing safe sex to prevent contracting syphilis and getting treated with antibiotics to save his life.

Learning Outcomes

You’ll have the ability to do the following after this lesson:

  • Identify the bacterium that causes syphilis
  • Describe the stages of syphilis
  • Explain how syphilis is transmitted and how it can be prevented
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