Scientists Identified the bug which Caused the Bubonic Plague in Europe

Science & Technology Current Affairs 2011. Scientists claimed to have reconstructed the genome of the bug that caused the bubonic plague (often referred as black death) in Europe

Created On: Oct 18, 2011 18:36 ISTModified On: Oct 18, 2011 19:07 IST

Scientists claimed to have reconstructed the genome of the bug that caused the bubonic plague (often referred as black death) in Europe. The bug was discovered to be an ancient strain of a bacterium called Yersinia pestis and not so much different from today’s.   


The discovery was made by scientists at McMaster University in Canada, the University of Tubingen in Germany. The study was published in the journal Nature on 12 October 2011.

The Scientists collected the ancient Y.pestis DNA from 46 teeth and 53 bones excavated from the East Smithfield burial grounds in London. Researchers reconstructed the bacterium’s genome and made comparisons to the genomes of existing strains of Y.pestis. They determined that the bug hadn't changed much in the more than 600 years since the plague swept Europe.


The study will help researchers track bug’s evolution.  It could improve scientists' understanding of modern diseases as well.


Bubonic plague still strikes somewhere between 1000 and 3000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. It wiped out 30 million people in Europe (30 to 50 Percent of the population in Europe) between 1347 and 1351.


Bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease, circulating mainly among small rodents and their fleas, and is one of three types of infections caused by Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), which belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae.

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