Black death came to Europe from Russia

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — In the 14th century, the second plague pandemic in history, called the Black Sea or the Black Death, mowed up to 60% of the population of Europe, quickly spreading from the Black Sea coast to Central Europe.

Experts believe that the disease received such an ominous name due to the fact that the bodies of the dead from the plague quickly turned black, leading superstitious horror to contemporaries.

In historical texts of that time, many references and terrible descriptions of destructive pestilence have been preserved. But, despite this, the starting point of the lethal procession of the plague pathogen – the bacteria Yersinia pestis, or plague bacillus, and the route along which it spread, remained unclear to the end.

This is due to the lack of data on early outbreaks of the plague, and the scarcity of published ancient genomes of the causative agent of one of the most terrible infectious diseases.

According to the current versions, the highly infectious strain of the bacterium Y. pestis could come from one source or be brought to Europe by different travelers more than once. Then scientists would deal with various strains of the plague pathogen from different parts of the world.

Recently, a group of scientists from the Company’s research at the Max Planck led by Professor Johannes Krause has analyzed the remains found at 10 archaeological sites in England, France, Germany, Russia and Switzerland.

According to a press release , a study of 34 ancient genomes of Y. pestis , extracted from the teeth of skeletons, showed that the “sources” of one of the worst pandemics were located on the territory of the modern city of Laishevo in the Volga region of Russia.

It was there that researchers discovered a plague stick, which was the ancestor of all other bacteria whose DNA was found in skeletons. Moreover, the Volga strain Y. pestis differed from the causative agent of Black Death in Europe by only one mutation.

According to scientists, the new data correlate well with the information that the first outbreaks of the plague occurred just in this area. These data were discovered in historical documents of 1346.

By the way, this is not the first time that German scientists have been researching the plague genome isolated from ancient graves in our country.

Despite the findings, the finding does not mean that the Volga was the “reference point” for a deadly pandemic, experts emphasize. The bacteria could have been brought into Russia from other countries of West Asia. By the way, scientists are already planning to carry out the selection and analysis of DNA of ancient Y. pestis in this region.

We add that in the process of research, anthropologists and genetics also found out that in Europe from Italy to the UK, the same strain of a dangerous bacterium was “responsible” for the outbreak of plague.

According to them, just this option also gave rise to other “versions” of Y. pestis , which caused later European outbreaks of the disease that arose from the late 14th to the 18th century.

This testifies to the fact that the bacterium continued to “circulate” in Europe, spread by rats (although there is still no agreement on who transmitted the disease in the scientific world ).

Note that the plague can not be called a thing of the past. In 2010-2015, in the world, according to WHO , more than three thousand cases of this disease were recorded. And although infectious disease specialists have learned to treat it, mortality from the plague is still 30-60%.

The results of the latest research of a large team of scientists are described in more detail in an article published in the journal Nature Communications.

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