New Findings on the Black Death

Recent DNA research on plague victims has led to new findings on the Black Death, published yesterday at the Lancet online.

According to the BBC, “A team has compared the genomes of the Justinian Plague and the Black Death to find that both were caused by distinct strains of the bacterium Yersinia Pestis.”


Hendrik Poinar, a researcher at McMaster University in Canada, argues that “the major implication is that this is a disease that can continue to emerge and cause nasty epidemics and so one should be constantly looking for the sourcing spots to where they came from.”

Poinar explains that Yersinia Pestis has evolved through history. It has “‘boomed and gone bust’ over time by generating novel mutations as rodents become immune to it.”

See the Lancet online first service (subscription or library access required) for the research article. The BBC and the Independent both report on the new research.

This entry was posted in Environmental History, European History, History of Medicine, History of Science, Mediterranean World. Bookmark the permalink.

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