A new study titled “Genotyping Yersinia pestis in Historical Plague: Evidence for Long-Term Persistence of Y. pestis in Europe from the 14th to the 17th Century” and published in the journal PLOS ONE reveals that Y. pestis, the bacteria that caused widespread plague, including the Black Death, must have subsisted in an unknown reservoir host for up to 300 years in Europe.
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The research was led by Lisa Seifert from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany, together with other colleagues.
Many of the researchers are unsure of the influence or impact of Yersinia pestis in the plague that occurred between the 14th to the 17th century – the second plague; while others say the pandemic must have come because of some viral disease.
But then, a number of unrelated researches point to the fact that bacteria responsible for the plague and the Black Death had been latent for thousands of years – earlier than initially thought.
The DNA of 30 plague victims who died in the second plague pandemic was analyzed – the victims having been unearthed from two burial sites in Germany, and spanning over 300 years.
Out of the 30 human skeletons analyzed, eight of them had the Yersinia pestis bacteria; and these eight had genetic signatures that were positive with other victims of plagues in other parts of Europe and beyond.
Apart from the fact that Y. pestis may have been introduced again and again form central Asia while the second plague lasted, researchers agree the bacteria may have been in Europe all this time in a reservoir host that is yet to be determined or identified.
MP for this study was funded by the US Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate via award DHS-09-ST-108-001.