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Sixth-Century Plague of Justinian Pandemic Was Caused By Yersinia Pestis Bacteria

It's easy to forget just how far medicine has progressed. While we may worry about the spread of infectious diseases like avian flu or meningitis today, those pathogens have nothing on fearsome pandemics in the distant past like the Plague of Justinian, which killed over 100 million people from the 6th to 8th centuries AD and helped usher in the Dark Ages in Europe.The precise cause of the Justinian Plague, named for the emperor who ruled the Byzantine Empire at the time, was fiercely contested among historians and epidemiologists for years.

Now, researchers at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany claim to have settled the debate.

After analyzing DNA from the skeletal remains of 6th century plague victims, they determined that the Justinian Plague pathogen was the same as that of the Black Death that came to Europe eight centuries later-the bacteria Yersinia pestis.
 
 

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