Researchers at the Institute Max Plank in Germany announced that the Black Death genome was reconstructed from plague victims in the 18th century. The researchers managed to find some leftover DNA in the teeth of the last plague victims from Marseilles, France.
The plague, or the Black Death as it was called by historians, is produced by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. It is a rod-shaped coccobacillus. Since antibiotics were not discovered until the 19th century, the 14th and 18th-century population had no means of fighting the killing bacteria.
The Yersinia pestis was responsible not only for the black plague, or bubonic plague, that received its name because of the pustules that appeared in the region of the lymphatic nodes and which turned necrotic towards the end of the infected person’s life but also for the pneumonic and septicemic plagues.
The first one was rather rare and could only have been transmitted when healthy people came in contact with an infected person’s saliva or mucus, and the latter was widely distributed due to the fact that it was carried out by infected insects like fleas and flies.
But not everything is known about this strange disease that wreaked havoc in Europe 4 centuries apart. The Black Death genome was reconstructed from plague victims in order to be further analyzed. The researchers are trying to trace the origin point of the plague, the patient zero that started the catastrophic events that led to the dead of more than 30 percent of Europe’s population at the time.
The only answer that they got so far is that the bacteria re-emerged after 4 centuries of being in a latent state. It did not vanish after the 14th-century epidemic, not completely, it only got buried away and waited patiently until something woke it up from its dormant state and it started infecting people again and spreading at an alarming rate.
That something that caused it to re-emerge is why the Black Death genome was reconstructed from plague victims so that our scientists could have a clue on what makes it active.
The subject of the plague is still at an interest in the scientific community because even though antibiotics can slow it down, there still isn’t a cure for the disastrous disease. The scientific and historic communities can only guess what made the disease disappear in the two instances in which it was active. One of the answers is that the population grew immune to the bacteria.
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