Ancient teeth finally reveal where the Black Death, the deadliest in history, originated

The health catastrophe of the mid-fourteenth century is one of the most significant episodes of disease in human history.

Now an analysis suggests it was in KyrgyzstanCentral Asia, in the 1330s.

The research team from the University of Stirling in Scotland and the Max Planck Institute and the University of Tübingen in Germany analyzed ancient DNA samples from the teeth of skeletons in cemeteries near Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan.

They chose the area after noticing a significant increase in burials there in 1338 and 1339.

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Plague doctors wore distinctive clothing: the beak mask contained dried flowers and reduced the effect of bad odours.

Dr. Maria Spyrou, a researcher at the University of Tübingen, explained that the team sequenced the DNA of seven skeletons.

They analyzed the teeth because, according to the doctor, they contain many blood vessels and offer researchers “a high chance of detecting blood-borne pathogens that may have caused the death of individuals.”

The research team was able find the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, in three of them.

“Our study puts to rest one of the biggest and most fascinating questions in history and determines when and where the most notorious and infamous killer of humans began,” Dr Philip Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling, said of the discovery.

The investigation has some limitations including the small sample size.

Dr Michael Knapp of the University of Otago in New Zealand, who was not involved in the work, praised it as “really valuable” but noted: “Data from a lot more people, times and regions … would really help clarify what really matters.” mean the data presented here.

The researchers’ work, titled “The Source of the Black Death in 14th-Century Central Eurasia,” was published in the journal Nature.


What is bubonic plague?

Plague is a potentially lethal infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis that lives on some animals, mainly rodents, and their fleas.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease that people can get.

The name comes from the symptoms What it causes: Swollen, painful lymph nodes or “buboes” in the groin or armpit.

Between 2010 and 2015, 3,248 cases were reported worldwide, including 584 deaths.

Historically, it has also been called the Black Death, referring to the gangrenous blackening and death of body parts, such as fingers and toes, that can occur with the disease.

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