Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists confirm that the Justinianic Plague was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis

10.05.2013
Ancient DNA analyses of skeletal remains of plague victims from the 6th century AD provide information about the phylogeny and the place of origin of this pandemic

From the several pandemics generally called 'pestilences' three are historically recognized as due to plague, but only for the third pandemic of the 19th to 21st centuries AD there were microbiological evidences that the causing agent was the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

"For a long time scholars from different disciplines have intensively discussed about the actual etiological agents of the past pandemics. Only ancient DNA analyses carried out on skeletal remains of plague victims could finally conclude the debate", said Dr. Barbara Bramanti of the Palaeogenetics Group at the Institute of Anthropology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).

About two years ago, she headed the international team which demonstrated beyond any doubt that Y. pestis also caused the second pandemic of the 14th-17th centuries including the Black Death, the infamous epidemic that ravaged Europe from 1346 to 1351. Bramanti and her Mainz colleague Stephanie Hänsch now cooperated with the University of Munich, the German Bundeswehr, and international scholars to solve the debate as to whether Y. pestis caused the so-called Justinianic Plague of the 6th to 8th centuries AD. The results of ancient DNA analyses carried out on the early medieval cemetery of Aschheim in Bavaria were published last week in PloS Pathogens.

They confirmed unambiguously that Y. pestis was indeed the causing agent of the first pandemic, in contrast to what has been postulated by other scientists recently. This revolutionary result is supported by the analysis of the genotype of the ancient strain which provide information about the phylogeny and the place of origin of this plague. As for the second and third pandemic, the original sources of the plague bacillus were in Asia.

"It remains questionable whether at the time of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian only one strain or more were disseminated in Europe, as it was at the time of the Black Death," suggested Bramanti and Hänsch. To further investigate this and other open questions about the modalities and route of transmission of the medieval plagues, Bramanti has recently obtained an ERC Advanced Grant for the project "The medieval plagues: ecology, transmission modalities and routes of the infection" (MedPlag) and will move to the Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo in Norway. The CEES, chaired by Nils Chr. Stenseth, has an outstanding and rewarded record of excellence in the research on infectious diseases and in particular on Y. pestis.

The MedPlag research group is constituted by Stephanie Hänsch, Lars Walloe, Boris Schmid, Kyrre L. Kausrud and Ryan W. Easterday (University of Oslo, Norway), Mark Achtman (University of Warwick, UK), Elisabeth Carniel (Institute Pasteur, Paris, France), Raffaella Bianucci (University of Turin, Italy), Ulf Büntgen (Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape, Switzerland) as well as celebrated historians and archaeologists from Europe, Asia, and America.

Publication:
Harbeck M, Seifert L, Hänsch S, Wagner DM, Birdsell D, Parise KL, Wiechmann I, Grupe G, Thomas A, Keim P, Zöller L, Bramanti B, Riehm JM, Scholz HC (2013) Yersinia pestis DNA from Skeletal Remains from the 6th Century AD Reveals Insights into Justinianic Plague. PLoS Pathog 9(5): e1003349
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003349

Further information:
Dr. Barbara Bramanti
Palaeogenetics Group
Institute of Anthropology
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
D 55099 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 39-38453
e-mail: bramanti@uni-mainz.de
http://www.uni-mainz.de/FB/Biologie/Anthropologie/MolA/Deutsch/Mitarbeiter/Bramanti.html

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/16374_ENG_HTML.php
- press release ;
http://www.uni-mainz.de/FB/Biologie/Anthropologie/MolA/English/Staff/Bramanti.html

- Dr. Barbara Bramanti ;

http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/13883_ENG_HTML.php
- "Yersinia pestis bacteria clearly identified as the cause of the big plague epidemic of the Middle Ages" (JGU press release, 8 Oct. 2010)

Petra Giegerich | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-mainz.de/

Further reports about: CEES DNA analyses MedPlag Palaeogenetics Yersinia pestis ancient DNA plague

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biology in a twist -- deciphering the origins of cell behavior
31.03.2015 | National University of Singapore

nachricht Speech dynamics are coded in the left motor cortex
31.03.2015 | Universitätsmedizin Göttingen - Georg-August-Universität

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biology in a twist -- deciphering the origins of cell behavior

31.03.2015 | Life Sciences

Wrapping carbon nanotubes in polymers enhances their performance

31.03.2015 | Materials Sciences

Research Links Two Millennia of Cyclones, Floods, El Niño

31.03.2015 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>