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

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>