Plague tomb in Eyam by martsky
The Black Death, also known as the Plague, was a devastating pandemic that struck Europe in the 14th century, and killed between a third and two thirds of Europe’s population. Almost simultaneous epidemics occurred in Asia and the Middle East during the same period, so the well recorded waves of infection in Europe were really part of a worldwide pandemic which killed at least 75 million people. The same disease is thought to have returned to Europe every generation with varying degrees of severity until the 1700s. The disease was completely eradicated in Europe only at the beginning of the 19th century, but survives in other parts of the world, notably in Africa, Asia and the Americas — including the United States.
But Yersinia pestis, the bacterium which causes plague, has not gone away, and climate change could mean that worse is to come. Find out more in this week’s MicrobiologyBytes podcast:
Download this podcast (free): mp3 version (audio only)
- Wikipedia: The Black Death
- Wikipedia: Eyam
- CDC Plague Home Page
- Achtman M, et al. Microevolution and history of the plague bacillus, Yersinia pestis. PNAS USA. 2004 101: 17837-42.
- Chr Stenseth N, et al. Plague dynamics are driven by climate variation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2006 Aug 21.
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