Strains of Same Plague caused Two of the Deadliest Pandemics in History: Study

PlagueStrains of the same plague have caused two of the deadliest pandemics in history, claimed researchers. It does not end here as scientists are of firm belief that new versions of bacteria are highly likely to trigger future outbreak.

Researchers reached the conclusion after conducting a study that saw analysis of tiny bits of DNA in the teeth of two German victims killed by the Justinian plague about 1,500 years ago. Then, they reconstructed the genome of the oldest bacteria known with the help of those fragments.

They identified a strain of Yersinia pestis responsible for causing the Justinian plague. It was the same pathogen that caused the Black Death in medieval Europe.

The impact of Justinian Plague was so severe that it wiped out half the world as it entered Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. About 50 million Europeans were killed by Black Death in just four years during the 14th century.

Findings of the study have been published online Tuesday in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases. Tom Gilbert is a professor at the Natural History Museum of Denmark who wrote an accompanying commentary.

He said, "What this shows is that the plague jumped into humans on several different occasions and has gone on a rampage. That shows the jump is not that difficult to make and wasn't a wild fluke".

Rodents were responsible to spread the plague by carrying the bacteria in their fleas and then spreading them among humans. Plague is likely to happen again but advancement in antibiotics should be able to prevent humans from dying of the plague, said Hendrik Poinar, Director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University in Canada.