We’ve been dealing with bubonic plague for 4,000 years, DNA analysis of ancient skeletons shows

bubonic plague
Outbreak of bubonic plague. Credit: Chicago Reader

Recently, the examination of two 3,800-year old skeletons revealed the presence of a Yersinia pestis strain, famously the bacterium that causes plague. This strain is now the oldest of its kind sequenced to date, and suggests that the devastation that is the bubonic plague has a Bronze Age origin. The discovery, published [June 8] in Nature Communications, pushes back the proposed age of the bubonic plague by 1,000 years.

“Contrary to previous studies suggesting that Y. pestis was unable to cause disease during that time, we provide evidence that bubonic plague has been affecting humans for at least the last 4,000 years,” study co-author Maria Spyrou [says].

Y. pestis diverged from a mild bacterium called Yersinia pseudotuberculosis which lives predominantly in the soil, then later acquired the ability to transmit through fleas of the gain of certain genes (like one that colonizes the flea’s gut) and the loss of others (like another gene that makes the bacterium toxic to fleas). It still exists today because of this ability to jump from creature to creature.

Related article:  Why did fatherhood evolve?

That it infects humans, Spyrou elaborates, is an unlucky situation mostly fueled by chance. Now it’s obvious that humans have been unlucky in this matter for longer than ever realized.

Read full, original post: Russian Skeletons Show the Bubonic Plague Has Killed People for 4,000 Years

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend