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 Locusts provide insight into brain response to stimuli, senses
28.04.2015 | Washington University in St. Louis

nachricht Discovery of an unexpected function of a protein linked to neurodegenerative diseases
28.04.2015 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fast and Accurate 3-D Imaging Technique to Track Optically-Trapped Particles

KAIST researchers published an article on the development of a novel technique to precisely track the 3-D positions of optically-trapped particles having complicated geometry in high speed in the April 2015 issue of Optica.

Daejeon, Republic of Korea, April 23, 2015--Optical tweezers have been used as an invaluable tool for exerting micro-scale force on microscopic particles and...

Im Focus: NOAA, Tulane identify second possible specimen of 'pocket shark' ever found

Pocket sharks are among the world's rarest finds

A very small and rare species of shark is swimming its way through scientific literature. But don't worry, the chances of this inches-long vertebrate biting...

Im Focus: Drexel materials scientists putting a new spin on computing memory

Ever since computers have been small enough to be fixtures on desks and laps, their central processing has functioned something like an atomic Etch A Sketch, with electromagnetic fields pushing data bits into place to encode data.

Unfortunately, the same drawbacks and perils of the mechanical sketch board have been just as pervasive in computing: making a change often requires starting...

Im Focus: Exploding stars help to understand thunderclouds on Earth

How is lightning initiated in thunderclouds? This is difficult to answer - how do you measure electric fields inside large, dangerously charged clouds? It was discovered, more or less by coincidence, that cosmic rays provide suitable probes to measure electric fields within thunderclouds. This surprising finding is published in Physical Review Letters on April 24th. The measurements were performed with the LOFAR radio telescope located in the Netherlands.

How is lightning initiated in thunderclouds? This is difficult to answer - how do you measure electric fields inside large, dangerously charged clouds? It was...

Im Focus: On the trail of a trace gas

Max Planck researcher Buhalqem Mamtimin determines how much nitrogen oxide is released into the atmosphere from agriculturally used oases.

In order to make statements about current and future air pollution, scientists use models which simulate the Earth’s atmosphere. A lot of information such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

HHL Energy Conference on May 11/12, 2015: Students Discuss about Decentralized Energy

23.04.2015 | Event News

“Developing our cities, preserving our planet”: Nobel Laureates gather for the first time in Asia

23.04.2015 | Event News

HHL's Entrepreneurship Conference on FinTech

13.04.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

‘Dead zones’ found in Atlantic open waters

28.04.2015 | Earth Sciences

Endangered corals smothered by sponges on overfished Caribbean reefs

28.04.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Tidal tugs on Teflon faults drive slow-slipping earthquakes

28.04.2015 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>