Tags: plague | cause | identified | emerge

Black Death Could Come Back: Experts

Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 04:38 PM

Two of the world's most devastating plagues — the Black Death and Justinian Plague, which each killed up to half the people living in Europe — were caused by distinct strains of the same microbe, an international team of scientists has discovered.

What's more, the findings suggest a new strain of plague could emerge again in humans in the future, Medical Xpress reports.

"The research is both fascinating and perplexing, it generates new questions which need to be explored, for example why did this pandemic, which killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people die out?" said Hendrik Poinar, associate professor and director of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre and an investigator with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.
 
Little has been known about the origins or cause of the Justinian Plague, which killed up to 50 million people and helped end the Roman Empire in the sixth century, and its relationship to the Black Death, which killed about the same number of Europeans some 800 years later.
 
Scientists said the new findings could lead to a better understanding of modern-day infectious disease, including a form of the plague that still kills thousands every year.
 
Using sophisticated methods, researchers from many universities including McMaster University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Sydney, isolated DNA fragments from the 1,500-year-old teeth of two victims of the Justinian Plague, buried in Bavaria, Germany.
 
They then reconstructed the genome of the bacterium responsible for the plague, and compared it to a database of genomes of more than a hundred contemporary strains.

The results, published online in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, show the strain responsible for the Justinian outbreak was distinct from strains involved later in the Black Death and other plague pandemics that would follow.

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Two devastating plagues - the Black Death and Justinian Plague, which each killed up to half the people living in Europe - were caused by distinct strains of the same microbe, and could re-emerge, new research shows.
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2014-38-28
Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 04:38 PM
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