"Black Death" Could Return, Study Warns
plagues known as the Black Death, which decimated medieval
peoples, could return in modern times as antibiotic-resistant forms
of of the virus have emerged, a study warns.
strains are raising serious concerns, according to the
study, published in the March issue of the journal Infection,
Genetics, and Evolution.
were announced on March 15 as archaeologists unearthed a Black
Death grave in London, containing more than a dozen skeletons
of people suspected to have died from the plague. The victims are
thought to have died during the 14th century and archaeologists
anticipate finding many more as they excavate the site.
is a highly contagious disease affecting the lungs. Population levels
suffered globally due to the plague, with around 75 million people
globally perishing during the 14th century Black Death, according
to researchers. The plague has returned episodically in recent decades,
although, thanks for modern medical care, fatalities have not surpassed
a few dozen in any recent outbreak.
The new study
analyzes the Great Plague of Marseille, which caused 100,000 deaths
between 1720 and 1723.
quite instructive to revisit the sequence of events and decisions
that led to the outbreak, wrote the author, Christian Devaux
of the Center for Pathogenic Agents and Health Biotechnologies in
the threat was known and health surveillance existed with quite
effective preventive measures such as quarantine, the accumulation
of small negligence led to one of the worst epidemics in the city
(about 30 percent of casualties among the inhabitants), he
wrote. This is an excellent model to illustrate the issues
we are facing with emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases
today and to define how to improve biosurveillance and response
of plague dissemination by transport trade is negligible between
developed countries, he added, but this risk still persists
in developing countries. In addition, the emergence of antibiotic
resistant strains of Yersinia pestis, the infectious agent of plague,
is raising serious concerns for public health. Genetic change
has also made the bacteria better able to live in mammalian blood,
In the April
issue of the journal Clinical and Experimental Immunology,
researchers with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory,
Salisbury, U.K. note that work is underway toward a vaccine for
from World Science.
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