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Overcoming microscopic challenges Cedarville native winning war against plague

The flea’s mouthparts, perfectly adapted to puncturing the skin, slide in easily, and the tiny insect immediately begins sucking blood from its host.

But it doesn’t only suck blood – the flea’s saliva keeps blood from clotting. And riding along in that saliva are bacteria.

In a world literally covered with bacteria, one type seems built for destruction: Yersinia pestis. It is responsible for as many as 30 million deaths worldwide – many of them thanks to fleabites – and is known as the Black Death, the black plague or just the plague.

When it raged in Europe in the 1300s, plague wiped out one-third of the population.

When the bacteria enter the human bloodstream, their preferred method of protecting themselves is to build a protein shell. The human immune system can attack the shell, but creating the antibodies to do so will take weeks. Plague can kill in just days.

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