The Black Death or the Great Plague is considered to be one of the most devastating pandemics in the history of mankind. According to historical records, in just 5 years, the disease managed to engulf all of Europe, killing approximately 50 percent of its population. And is seems that the disease is still lurking around somewhere. Scientists reconstructed the Black Death’s genome using samples from plague victims.
Only bits of information have transpired regarding the disease and how it was transmitted. Most of the historians and medical specialists believe that the disease was transmitted by rats which had plague-carrying fleas. But the recent research was successful in determining what caused the disease in the first place, but it failed to determine its origin.
That’s where the new study comes in. A team of researchers from the Max Planck institute have started an investigation regarding the source of the contagion. The research performed by the Department of Science of Human History is crucial in determining the chronology of the events that led to the most devastating outbreak man ever knew.
In order to study the disease, the scientists from Max Planck institute focused on the Great Plague of Marseilles, which, according to historical records, took place between 1720 and 1722. It is the researcher’s belief that the outbreak which ravaged Marseille had its roots in the Medieval Black Plague, the pandemic which killed almost half of Europe’s population.
The scientists working on the project theorized that the rats carrying the fleas which induced the plague might have been brought in the city by merchant ships, coming in from different corners of the world.
Using DNA sample collected from the plague victims, the scientists reconstructed the Black Plague’s genome. They were successful in tracing the lineage of this disease. According to their results, the outbreak that ravaged Marseilles during the 18th century was a remnant of the Black Death, the plague outbreak which decimated Europe in the 14th century.
Alexander Herbig, a computer scientists working on the project declared that through computer projections, the team of scientists was able to identify several extinct forms of the disease. Also, Kirsten Bos, the lead author of the study made a few comments regarding the disease. It was she who declared that the disease might have been hiding in Europe, tucked away under our noses.
Although the scientists at Jena were unable to pinpoint the origin of the disease, the project was successful in mapping several extinct strains of the disease, which are crucial in understanding how the disease evolved and why it killed so many people.