Ancient plague genomes may tell of Medieval trade routes

Scanning electron micrograph depicting a mass of <em>Yersinia pestis</em> bacteria (the cause of bubonic plague) in the foregut of the flea vector.

Enlarge / Scanning
electron micrograph depicting a mass of Yersinia pestis bacteria
(the cause of bubonic plague) in the foregut of the flea vector.
(credit: Rocky
Mountain Laboratories / Wikimedia
)

Barbara Bramanti grew up near Florence, Italy, worked for a
while in Mainz, Germany, and is now at the University of Oslo in
Norway. Her career has taken her across a decent swath of Western
Europe—but not nearly across as big of an area as that ravaged by
the plague she studies.

In her latest work, she and her colleagues associate Europe’s
Black Death plague outbreak with a change in trade policy in
Asia.

Where’d they come from?

Yersinia pestis, the subject of her research, is the bacterium
responsible for three bubonic plague pandemics over human history.
The first was the Justinian Plague, which started in Constantinople
around the year 541 CE and devastated the Byzantine Empire until
the middle of the eighth century. The second began with the Black
Death, which killed at least 30 percent of the population of
Western Europe between 1346 and 1353 and then continued rampaging
over the next 400-ish years. The third started in 1772 in Yunnan
province, in southwest China, and is still currently underway.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Ancient plague genomes may tell of Medieval trade routes