Scientists Dig Up Corpses To Reconstruct The Genetic Code Of The Germ That Caused The Black Death

Friday, October 14, 2011
By Paul Martin

(Things That Make You Go…HMMMMMM)

Black Death genetic code ‘built’

By Matt McGrath

The genetic code of the germ that caused the Black Death has been reconstructed by scientists for the first time.

The researchers extracted DNA fragments of the ancient bacterium from the teeth of medieval corpses found in London.

They say the pathogen is the ancestor of all modern plagues.

The research, published in the journal Nature, suggests the 14th Century outbreak was also the first plague pandemic in history.

Humans have rarely encountered an enemy as devastating as the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Between 1347 and 1351 it sparked the Black Death, an infection carried by fleas that spread rapidly across Europe killing around 50 million people.

Now scientists have uncovered some of the genetic secrets of the plague, thanks to DNA fragments drilled from the teeth of victims buried in a graveyard in London’s East Smithfield.

Professor Johannes Krause from the University of Tubingen, Germany, was a member of the research team. He said all current strains circulating in the world are directly related to the medieval bacterium.

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