The Plague of Justinian

Sometimes I enjoy the role that technology can play in science in a very uncritical way, and so I am have not considered what may or may not have been left out, or assumed or left unconsidered, in the [coverage by the Guardian][] of what DNA sequencing of victims of the Plague of Justinian reveals about the origins and vectors of the bubonic plague.

As the Guardian notes, “The Plague of Justinian occurred in the sixth century AD and resulted in more than 100 million deaths by some estimates. Named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the outbreak was one of the first recorded plague pandemics.”

Previous research had already established that the plague was *Yersinia pestis*, but the new research “showed the strains from the [Justinian] plague victims were distinct from those involved in the Black Death, the later pandemic which killed an estimated 60% of the European population.” (Is this a new figure? I thought previous estimates were one-quarter to one-third.)

The conclusion? “The Justinianic strains appear to be an evolutionary “dead end” when compared with modern strains, and most likely originated from Asia and then spread to Europe along trade routes such as the Silk Road.”

[coverage by the Guardian]: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/28/plague-victims-shed-light-disease-origins

(Visited 25 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply