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Black Death Bacteria Little Changed as Advances Stave Off Plague

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The bacteria responsible for the Black Death that killed a third of Europe’s population from 1347 to 1351 has changed little since then as health and hygiene advances held it in check, scientists said.

Researchers extracted DNA from the teeth of four skeletons exhumed from a cemetery near the Tower of London to reconstruct the Yersinia pestis genome, according to a report yesterday in the journal Nature. The study determined the germ is still circulating yet probably didn’t cause earlier plagues in Rome and Greece, suggesting the European outbreak was the first to spread the bacteria worldwide, the researchers said.

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