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Bubonic / Pneumonic / Septicemic Plague: Yersinia Pestis

it's been in Britain for a long time.

Researchers have found 4,000-year-old plague DNA in Britain - the oldest evidence of the disease in the country.

Scientists identified three cases of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria causing the plague, in human remains - two in a mass burial in Somerset, and one in a ring cairn monument in Cumbria. The team took small skeletal samples from 34 individuals looking for the presence of Yersinia pestis in teeth. The dental pulp was examined as it traps the DNA of infectious diseases.

Francis Crick Institute scientists worked with the University of Oxford, the Levens Local History Group and the Wells and Mendip Museum to make the discovery.

Pooja Swali, first author and PhD student at the Crick, said: "The ability to detect ancient pathogens from degraded samples, from thousands of years ago, is incredible. These genomes can inform us of the spread and evolutionary changes of pathogens in the past, and hopefully help us understand which genes may be important in the spread of infectious diseases. We see that this Yersinia pestis lineage, including genomes from this study, loses genes over time, a pattern that has emerged with later epidemics caused by the same pathogen."

Out Of Egypt?

Many reports from antiquity about outbreaks of plague mention Egypt as the source of pestilences that reached the Mediterranean. But was this really the case? Researchers from the University of Basel are conducting a critical analysis of the ancient written and documentary evidence combined with archaeogenetic findings to add some context to the traditional view.

Red and inflamed eyes, bad breath, fever, violent convulsions, boils and blisters over the entire body: these and other symptoms are mentioned by historian Thucydides in connection with the "Plague of Athens," which lasted from 430 to 426 BCE. He suspected that the epidemic originated in Aithiopia.

"This area isn't to be confused with the country we now know as Ethiopia, but was a more general term used at the time to refer to the region south of Egypt," explains Professor Sabine Huebner, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Basel.

Contemporary accounts suggest that later epidemics in the Mediterranean also started in Egypt and Aithiopia, such as the Antonine Plague, the Plague of Cyprian and the Justinianic Plague, which ravaged the ancient world between the second and sixth centuries.

Papyri providing new information​

Was Egypt actually a gateway for pathogens spreading into the Mediterranean? Sabine Huebner and postdoc Dr. Brandon McDonald wanted to know more. As part of a project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, they searched all available sources from antiquity—in particular papyri—for information about epidemics associated with Egypt. They recently published their findings in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History.

In the case of the Justinianic Plague (541 to 544 CE), they found various references to the epidemic having first reached the Mediterranean world in Egypt before spreading into the Sea. But things looked rather different with the Antonine Plague (165 to at least 180 CE) and the Cyprian Plague (251 to 270 CE). "There's no clear proof that these two epidemics spread from Africa," says Sabine Huebner.

Bubos back in Oregon, officials fear feline is source.

The bubonic plague might sound like an affliction of the past, but the bacterium behind the disease is still out there, causing thousands of human infections worldwide, year after year, although cases in the US are relatively rare.

The state of Oregon just confirmed its first case in eight years, and officials say it probably came from a domestic cat, which also showed symptoms. Oregon health officer Richard Fawcett told Aria Bendix at NBC News that the patient who contracted the plague from their pet became "very sick".

Usually, an infection of this kind starts with flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever, chills, and a headache. The recent infection in Oregon, however, had progressed to the point of a draining abscess, called a "bubo", which is a rare outcome nowadays. Thankfully, modern antibiotics mean that the bubonic plague no longer has to be a death sentence. The bacterium behind the infection, Yersinia pestis, rarely proves fatal if caught and treated early enough.

The patient in Oregon is apparently responding well to modern medicine, and their close contacts have also been treated to curb the possibility of further spread.

Officials have not said how the infection spread from the cat to the owner, but if the cat was bitten by infected fleas, the pet might have brought the fleas home, exposing the owner, too. Either that, or the owner may have been in contact with the cat's own contaminated fluids.

Y. pestis usually infects small mammals and fleas, and depending on how it spreads to humans, either by bites, contaminated fluids, or droplets in the air, it can cause bubonic plague or a blood- or lung-based plague. ...

The last time a case was reported in Oregon was back in 2015, when a girl was infected during a hunting trip and ended up in intensive care.