Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

1,500-year-old plague victims shed light on disease origins

Study finds catastrophic diseases aren't things that evolve once – 'they actually evolve multiple times from different ancestors'

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the pathogen that caused one of the most devastating plagues in human history, shedding light on where the disease came from and how it spread.

The Plague of Justinian occurred in the sixth century AD and resulted in more than 100 million deaths by some estimates. Named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the outbreak was one of the first recorded plague pandemics. 

Scientists have previously analysed DNA samples taken from plague victims to determine that the Plague of Justinian was likely caused by Yersinia pestis, the bacterium also responsible for the Black Death.
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