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The bacterium that caused the medieval pandemic has changed very little in 600 years: it reveals the study of his DNA. Even today thousands of cases (but not in Europe)
The terrible Black Death that raged across Europe in 1300 is not only a historical fact: the bacterium responsible for cases of plague that still affect thousands of people is the same in the Middle Ages.
The new findings are based on the study of bacteria taken from the skeletal remains of victims of the Black Death, discovered in London in a cemetery dating back to the mid-fourteenth century.
The excavation of the medieval necropolis was led by Museum of London Archaeology. Two researchers, Kirsten I. Bos of McMaster University (Canada) and Verena J. Schuenemann of the University of Tübingen (Germany), have managed to get the entire genetic code of the bacterium that caused the Black Death, Yersinia pestis, drawing it from the remains bone content of Londoners tombs.
After examining the remains of Y. pestis of 46 teeth and 53 bone fragments, they have realized that the pathogen that caused the medieval plague, in fact, from the genetic point of view in the last 600 years has not changed much.
This means, as the authors write in the journal Nature, that the contemporary bacterium Y. pestis is a native of the Middle Ages. Scholars knew for some time that the bacterium that causes the dreaded disease has evolved from a soil bacterium. The pathogen of the Black Death owns a small segment of DNA in more than allows it to infect humans. Once you made the evolutionary leap, for the plague bacterium was very easy to spread, carried by fleas that infested rats.
These rodents, in the fourteenth century, they moved on easily land on ships and other vehicles. Once we arrived in Europe, in 1340 or so, the plague spread rapidly, killing 30, maybe 50 million people. Practically half of Europe‘s population died over five years.