The hideout of the Black Death: Historical pathogens survived for more than 4 centuries in Europe

January 22, 2016
Marseille during the Great Plague of 1720. Credit: public domain

Black Death, mid-fourteenth century plague, is undoubtedly the most famous historical pandemic. Within only five years it killed 30-50% of the European population. Unfortunately it didn't stop there. Plague resurged throughout Europe leading to continued high mortality and social unrest over the next three centuries.

With its nearly worldwide distribution today, it's surprising that the once omnipresent threat of is all but absent in Western Europe. Plague's abrupt disappearance from Europe leaves us with many unanswered questions about the disease's history. Where did the outbreaks begin? Where was plague hiding between outbreaks? What would cause a resurgence of the dreaded plague?

Archaeology holds many of the answers to these questions if you know where to look for clues. An international team of scientists led by members of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, has taken one important step forward to understanding the European plagues of our not-so-distant past. In the online journal eLife they report the reconstruction of complete pathogen genomes from victims of the Great Plague of Marseille (1720-1722), which is conventionally assumed to be the last outbreak of medieval plague in Europe. Using teeth from plague pits in Marseille, the team was able to access tiny fragments of DNA that had preserved for hundreds of years.

"We faced a significant challenge in reconstructing these ancient genomes," comments computational analyst Alexander Herbig. "To our surprise, the 18th century plague seems to be a form that is no longer circulating, and it descends directly from the disease that entered Europe during the Black Death, several centuries earlier". Being distinct from all modern forms of plague, the scientists believe they have identified an extinct form of the disease.

Kirsten Bos, a lead author of the publication, cautions that the geographical source of the disease cannot be identified yet. Marseille was a big hub of trade in the Mediterranean, so the Great Plague of Marseille could have been imported from any number of places by ship and cargo. But she concedes that it equally could have been close to home. "Our results suggest that the disease was hiding somewhere in Europe for several hundred years".

"It's a chilling thought that plague might have once been hiding right around the corner throughout Europe, living in a host which is not known to us yet" explains Johannes Krause, director of the Department of Archaeogenetics at the MPI in Jena, and he adds: "Future work might help us to identify the mysterious host species, its range and the reason for its disappearance".

Explore further: Black death strains persisted to create repeated European outbreaks

More information: Eighteenth century Yersinia pestis genomes reveal the long-term persistence of an historical plague focus, eLife, 2016.

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baudrunner
1 / 5 (7) Jan 22, 2016
This is from a site that talks about William Bramleigh's book, "The Gods of Eden". The site deals with chemtrails (sigh..) but the gist is correct, because I read that in "The Lost Realm" by Sitchin.
A great many people throughout Europe and other Plague stricken regions of the world were reporting that outbreaks of the Plague were caused by foul-smelling "mists". Those mists frequently appeared after unusually bright lights in the sky. The historian quickly discovers that "mists" were reported far more frequently and in many more locations than were rodent infestations. The Plague years were, in fact, a period of heavy UFO activity.
Reports of those mists covered every part of the globe that was affected by the Bubonic Plague, including India and China. In fact, epidemiologists are at a loss to explain how the black death could have spontaneously affected distinct and separate areas that were in now way related geographically or culturally.
Phys1
4.6 / 5 (10) Jan 22, 2016
You are now noted for pushing pseudoscience of the worst kind, br.
MRBlizzard
not rated yet Jan 22, 2016
I understand that, in North America, plague is found in brown squirrels and prairie dogs. Could the host in Europe be squirrels
Phys1
3 / 5 (6) Jan 23, 2016
I understand that, in North America, plague is found in brown squirrels and prairie dogs. Could the host in Europe be squirrels

It could be any small rodent or bat population.
That can never be excluded.
AGreatWhopper
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2016
Within only five years it killed 30-50% of the European population. Unfortunately it didn't stop there.


Unfortunately those that had the immune factors to survive it went on to begin the vermin phase of human history.
AGreatWhopper
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 24, 2016
The site deals with chemtrails (sigh..)


Then it should be deleted, the owners broken on the wheel and driven from the land.

Zero tolerance for AFOSI stooges.
AGreatWhopper
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 24, 2016
I understand that, in North America, plague is found in brown squirrels and prairie dogs. Could the host in Europe be squirrels


The bigger question is if these are outdated models that fail to realize that it was a pneumonic, not bubonic plague. The long historical acceptance of the term means that the language is totally confounded now. The difference between the two makes a huge difference in modeling how it spread.

Being distinct from all modern forms of plague, the scientists believe they have identified an extinct form of the disease.


A point missed by those that look at plague as some kind of divine retribution or nature uber humans. It's not in the bacteria's interest to kill the host so swiftly. One can argue that most very virulent and mortal plagues are the result of relatively new organisms that have not evolved to be able to infect the host for long periods without killing it. The mechanism sounds like a promising line of study.
promile
Jan 24, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Phys1
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2016
One can argue that most very virulent and mortal plagues are the result of relatively new organisms that have not evolved to be able to infect the host for long periods without killing it.

The organism can be new to humans but can have existed a long time in another host. In this case the authors play with the possibility that there is still some isolated host population that could infect us when contacted. Seems very unlikely.
promile
Jan 24, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2016
You are now noted for pushing pseudoscience of the worst kind, br.
Not pseudoscience, aeronautics. Identifiable and unidentifiable flying objects are mechanical contraptions.

Methinks you're quite prepared to believe in armageddon, the rapture, fire and brimstone and all that, but when they return to deliver these things you don't believe them all of a sudden? What is your strange and curious perception of your god?
Phys1
4 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2016

Methinks you're quite prepared to believe in armageddon, the rapture, fire and brimstone and all that, but when they return to deliver these things you don't believe them all of a sudden? What is your strange and curious perception of your god?

Huh ?
Phys1
4 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2016
You are now noted for pushing pseudoscience of the worst kind, br.
Not pseudoscience, aeronautics. Identifiable and unidentifiable flying objects are mechanical contraptions.

Insane.
baudrunner
3 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2016
a) "Huh?" ..and b)"Insane"?

a) you're obviously confused, the statement is easy to understand. So, why the "huh ?"..

b) be careful, you're obviously not qualified to say that about anybody.

You don't surprise me. Knowledge comes from understanding. Understanding comes from learning. Learning comes from reading. If you don't start reading, you can't develop a comprehensive understanding of how things work, why things are the way they are.

The problem that logical practical thinkers have with the American public at large is that 43% will justify their position based on their belief that the universe was made in 6 days and that the world is 6,000 years old (Gallup Poll). Additionally, we have to deal with a superfluous number of contributors who have no pre-frontal cortical neural processing. They are the double Y boys. No scientific output, just re-iteration. Departures from the expected are unmanageable. They short-circuit, and stop contributing.
Phys1
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2016
a) "Huh?" ..and b)"Insane"?

a) you're obviously confused, the statement is easy to understand. So, why the "huh ?"..

"huh" l because you mistake for for someone else.

b) be careful, you're obviously not qualified to say that about anybody.

I do not pretend it is a professional diagnosis. Still the stuff you write is totally insane.
I would take you to the shrink myself.

You don't surprise me. Knowledge comes from understanding. Understanding comes from learning. Learning comes from reading. If you don't start reading, you can't develop a comprehensive understanding of how things work, why things are the way they are.

Boring.
bschott
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2016
No scientific output, just re-iteration. Departures from the expected are unmanageable. They short-circuit, and stop contributing.


Often it is the simplest question one can ask that is unmanageable for said types. Enjoy your conversation with "that one".

Phys1
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2016
No scientific output, just re-iteration. Departures from the expected are unmanageable. They short-circuit, and stop contributing.


Often it is the simplest question one can ask that is unmanageable for said types. Enjoy your conversation with "that one".


The nuts are teaming up.
baudrunner
not rated yet Jan 27, 2016
"huh" l because you mistake for for someone else.
See? You just shorted out..
Phys1
4 / 5 (4) Jan 28, 2016
@br
Huh ?
What are you talking about ?
Are you ok in the brains department ?
baudrunner
not rated yet Jan 30, 2016
@Phys1, I'm going to start calling you "Sparky"

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