A new study has made new revelations about the Black Death outbreak in central Asia and Europe that cleared approximately half of the population in the western continent during the 14th century.
The researchers have until now believed that they were the black rats that were responsible for triggering the outbreak, but a new study has found that the giant gerbils of central Asia were the one who may have played a bigger role in spreading the disease across Europe and Central Asia.
The study, which was carried by the researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway, looked at the tree rings in Asian and European regions in order to better understand the climatic conditions that have prevailed during the mid of the 14th century.
During the study, the researchers discovered that weather conditions and wind prevailing in Europe at that time would not have been supportive to large rodent and the outbreaks of flea-spawned diseases. While in the case of Asia, the weather conditions were found conducive for the bacterial infection Yersinia pestis, also known as bubonic plague.
Study author Nils Christian Stenseth, head of Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis in Oslo, said, “We looked at the broad spectrum of climatic indices, and found no relationship between the weather conditions and the appearance of plague.”
Further observations made the researchers to conclude that the ongoing spice trade along the Silk Road would have facilitated new iterations of plague.
The lab tests showed that Asia’s giant gerbils are exceptional carriers of fatal disease.
Explaining more about Gerbils, researcher Pernille Nilsson, said, “There are great individual differences, but many individuals can handle an absurd amount of plague bacteria. Sometimes a single bacterium kills a mouse. Gerbils can tolerate 100 billion bacteria, while common rats can tolerate injection of just 10,000 bacteria. That is ten million times as many bacteria.”
Concluding the findings, the researchers said that the research not only clarified about the weather and gerbil genetics being the ideal carriers of plague, but also underlined that the spread of the disease triggered from European port cities, indicating the trade by both sea and land contributed in the Black Death.
The new exposures about the 14th century’s Black Death have been detailed in the journal PNAS.