Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail

Date:
February 4, 2008
Source:
University of Albany
Summary:
Despite the long-held assumption by historians that Europe's Black Death of 1347 to 1351 killed indiscriminately, a new research shows that the deadly plaque targeted the already ill and weak.

Despite the long-held assumption by historians that Europe's Black Death of 1347 to 1351 killed indiscriminately, a new report by University at Albany anthropologist Sharon DeWitte and Pennsylvania State University researcher James Wood finds that the deadly plaque targeted the already ill and weak.

The report's conclusions, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the Black Death -- the deadliest known epidemic in human history -- was selective in killing the ill, while many of the otherwise healthy survived the infection, refuting the assumption that it killed the healthy and sick alike, irrespective of age, sex or frailty.

Researchers examined a total of 490 skeletons from the East Smithfield cemetery in London -- set up to bury victims of the Black Death -- to test whether mortality associated with the outbreak of the Black Death was selective with response to preexisting health conditions. Frailty was indicated by the presence of at least one skeletal lesion known from prior research to be associated with earlier episodes of infection, under-nutrition or other forms of physiological stress.

As a comparison, they analyzed the bones of 291 genetically and culturally similar people buried in a Danish cemetery shortly before the plague began. Among the East Smithfield plague victims, bone lesions showed that many of those people were already in poor health when the Black Death struck.

"Studying the Black Death is relevant today in that it gives us some insight into who might be at highest risk for new, emerging diseases like SARS and Ebola," said DeWitte, assistant professor of anthropology at UAlbany.

Key findings of the report include:

Level of excess mortality for each lesion was higher in Denmark than in East Smithfield, suggesting that the Black Death was not as strongly selective as normal mortality.

Black Death was selective with respect to at least some of the skeletal indictors of frailty, as individuals who had those lesions before the Black Death appear to have been more likely to die during the epidemic than individuals without them.

In Denmark, during times of normal mortality, individuals with periosteal lesions of the tibia were more than five times more likely to die than their peers without such lesions; however during the Black Death, individuals who had tibial lesions before the outbreak were only about 50 percent more likely to die than their unaffected peers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Albany. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Albany. "Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204124738.htm>.
University of Albany. (2008, February 4). Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204124738.htm
University of Albany. "Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204124738.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins