Black death: DNA in teeth from 6 centuries reveals where the epidemic started, study says – 16/06/2022

Scientists believe they have revealed the origin of the disease that wiped out millions of people in the 14th century.

Scientists believe they have uncovered the origins of the Black Death, more than 600 years after it killed tens of thousands of people in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

The health disaster of the mid-14th century is one of the most significant pandemic chapters in human history.

But despite many years of research, researchers had still not been able to figure out where the bubonic plague started.

Now analyzes suggest it was in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, in the 1330s.

A research team from the University of Stirling in Scotland and the Max Planck Institute and the University of Tubingen in Germany analyzed ancient DNA samples from teeth from corpses buried in cemeteries near Issyk Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan.

They chose this region after noticing a significant increase in burials that took place there in 1338 and 1339.

Maria Spyrou, a researcher at the University of Tübingen, said the team sequenced the DNA from seven skeletons.

They analyzed the teeth because, according to Spyrou, they contain many blood vessels and offer researchers “a great chance of detecting blood-borne pathogens that may have caused the deaths of individuals.”

The research team managed to find the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestisin three of them.

“Our study addresses one of the biggest and most fascinating questions in history and determines when and where the most infamous and infamous killer of humans began,” said Philip Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling, about the discovery.

However, the research has some limitations, including the small sample size.

Michael Knapp of the University of Otago in New Zealand, who was not involved in the study, praised the work as being “really valuable”, but noted:

“Data from many more individuals, times, and regions … would really help clarify what the data presented here really means.”

The researchers’ work was published in the scientific journal Nature, with the following title: “The Source of Black Death in Fourteenth-Century Central Eurasia”.

What is bubonic plague?

Plague is a potentially fatal infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis which feed on some animals – mainly rodents – and on the fleas they carry in their fur.

Hives are the most common form of the disease that people can get. The name derives from the symptoms it causes, a painful swelling in the lymph nodes that forms a kind of bubble, known as a “bubo”, in the groin or armpit.

From 2010 to 2015, 3,248 cases were reported worldwide, including 584 deaths.

Historically, it was also called the black death, referring to the fact that it causes gangrene in certain parts of the body, such as fingers and toes, which eventually turn black.

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