Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genome of the Black Death reveals evidence for an Antique Bubonic Plague pandemic

Date:
November 29, 2012
Source:
Universitaet Tübingen
Summary:
Researchers have compared medieval and modern plague pathogens. In a comparison of more than 300 contemporary strains of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague, with ancient bacterial DNA isolated from victims of the Black Death (1347 -- 1351), a team led by researchers at University of Tuebingen obtained evidence suggestive of a bubonic plague outbreak in the late antique period (8th to 10th centuries AD). The study raises strong suspicions that the plague of Justinian, a massive pandemic that is thought to be in part responsible for the collapse of the East Roman Empire, may have been caused by the same bacterium implicated in the Black Death.

In a comparison of more than 300 contemporary strains of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague, with ancient bacterial DNA isolated from victims of the Black Death (1347 -- 1351), a team led by researchers at University of Tuebingen obtained evidence suggestive of a bubonic plague outbreak in the late antique period (8th to 10th centuries AD). The study published online November 30 in PLoS ONE raises strong suspicion that the plague of Justinian, a massive pandemic that is thought to be in part responsible for the collapse of the East Roman Empire, may have been caused by the same bacterium implicated in the Black Death.

After the initial reconstruction of the complete medieval genome of Y.pestis from a Black Death cemetery in London last year, the researchers from the University of Tuebingen used a published genome wide dataset from more than 300 modern Y.pestis strains to reconstruct the relationship of ancient and modern plague bacteria. Due to the well-established age of the ancient remains they were able to date major radiation events in the history of this pathogen that are likely linked to major pandemics in the human population.

The comparison of modern and ancient genomes revealed that of the 311 Y.pestis strains analyzed, 275 trace their ancestry back to the medieval Black Death pandemic in the mid of the 14th century, confirming a previous analysis of 21 complete plague genomes by the same authors in 2011. In the new larger dataset, however, the authors identified an additional cluster of 11 contemporary bacterial strains that branch in the Y.pestis phylogeny between the 7th and 10th centuries, thus suggesting a radiation event of Y.pestis bacteria during a major outbreak. This time period roughly coincides with the Justinian plague, which historical sources suggest took place between the 6th and 8th centuries AD.

Historians have long suspected that the plague of Justinian was a pandemic of bubonic plague but until now little empirical evidence existed. The suggestion that this pandemic was likely also caused by bubonic plague was rather unexpected for the researchers as their previous analysis published in 2011 revealed no evidence for major outbreaks of bubonic plague before the Black Death. "Our new analysis implies that bubonic plague may have been a major killer already in the late Roman Empire." explains Krause, a Juniorprofessor at the University of Tuebingen specializing in Palaeogenetics. "The plague of Justinian seems like the best candidate for this earlier pandemic."

The research was funded by the CERC and the Medical faculty at the University of Tuebingen.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Kirsten I. Bos, Philip Stevens, Kay Nieselt, Hendrik N. Poinar, Sharon N. DeWitte, Johannes Krause. Yersinia pestis: New Evidence for an Old Infection. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e49803 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049803

Cite This Page:

Universitaet Tübingen. "Genome of the Black Death reveals evidence for an Antique Bubonic Plague pandemic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129093138.htm>.
Universitaet Tübingen. (2012, November 29). Genome of the Black Death reveals evidence for an Antique Bubonic Plague pandemic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129093138.htm
Universitaet Tübingen. "Genome of the Black Death reveals evidence for an Antique Bubonic Plague pandemic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129093138.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 23, 2014) — The WHO has warned up to 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola over the next few weeks. As Sonia Legg reports, the implications for the West African countries suffering from the disease are huge. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) — Health officials warn that without further intervention, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach 1.4 million by January. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Cases to Triple in Weeks Without Drastic Action

WHO: Ebola Cases to Triple in Weeks Without Drastic Action

AFP (Sep. 23, 2014) — The number of Ebola infections will triple to 20,000 by November, soaring by thousands every week if efforts to stop the outbreak are not stepped up radically, the WHO warned in a study on Tuesday. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks

5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) — No surprise here: A recent study says men can reduce their risk of heart attack by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes daily exercise. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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