In DepthANCIENT DNA

How Europe exported the Black Death

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Science  29 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6285, pp. 501-502
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6285.501

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Summary

Black Death—the bubonic plague—probably reached Europe from Asia in 1346, and later outbreaks were thought to have arrived from the east via a similar route. Now, scientists have evidence that a virulent strain of the Black Death bacterium lurked for centuries in Europe while also working its way back to Asia. At the recent Society for American Archaeology meeting, researchers reported analyzing the remains of medieval victims in London; Barcelona, Spain; and near the Volga River in Russia. They determined that the victims all died of a highly similar strain of Yersinia pestis, the plague bacterium, which had mutated in Europe and then traveled eastward. A descendant of the 14th century plague may also have caused more recent outbreaks, in East Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries and in Madagascar today.

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