It has been said that mercury was used as a treatment for gonorrhea. Surgeons’ tools on board the recovered English warship the Mary Rose included a syringe that, according to some, was used to inject the mercury through the urinary meatus into any ill-fated crew member that was infected with gonorrhea. The name “The Clap”, as the disease is widely referred goes back to as early as 1719.
Silver nitrate was one of the commonly used drugs in the 19th century; however it was replaced by Protargol. Arthur Eichengrün invented this form of colloidal silver which was marketed by Bayer from 1897 onwards. The silver-based treatment was utilized until the first antibiotics came about in the 1940s.
The precise time of the onset of gonorrhea as a widespread disease or epidemic cannot be exactly established from past record. One of the first dependable notations occurred in the Acts of the English Parliament. In 1161 this body passed a law to decrease the spread of “...the perilous infirmity of burning” as it was called. The indications described were consistent with, but not a diagnosis of gonorrhea. A similar decree was passed by Louis IX in France in 1256, replacing rules with exile. Similar symptoms were noted at the siege of Acre by Crusaders.
Dependent on or coincidental to the appearance of a gonorrhea outbreak, numerous changes took place in European medieval society. Cities hired public health doctors to treat badly affected patients without right of refusal. Pope Boniface overturned the requirement that doctors complete studies for the lower orders of the Catholic priesthood.
Medieval public health physicians were required to treat prostitutes infected with the disease, as well as other epidemic victims. After Pope Boniface totally materialized the practice of medicine, doctors were more willing to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Municipalities would hire a representative to standardize the examination of infected patients to check the spread of this sexually transmitted infection. In Paris back then, this representative was well known as the “King of Whores”.