Spawn of Medieval “Black Death” Bug Still Roam the Earth

The Black Death in medieval Europe was more than the deadliest plague outbreak on record: The epidemic appears to be responsible for the cases of plague that still infect humans today.

The new findings are based on bacteria recovered from skeletons found in a mid-1300s cemetery for Black Death victims in London, England. The grave excavation was undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology.

Kirsten I. Bos of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and Verena J. Schuenemann of the University of Tübingen in Germany led an effort to sequence the genome of the Black Death pathogen, Yersinia pestis,recovered from the medieval grave.

After examining Y. pestis samples from 46 teeth and 53 bones, the team determined that the plague hasn’t changed much, genetically speaking, in more than 600 years.

The result “indicates that contemporary Y. pestis epidemics have their origins in the medieval era,” the study team writes.

Read the entire National Geographic article.