Science

Ancient DNA Uncovers The Mystery Of Justinianic Plague

By Enozia Vakil , May 11, 2013 10:27 AM EDT

New study reveals that Justinianic plague, the plague that hit the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople was caused by the same bacterium that causes Bubonic plague today.

In the 6th and 8th centuries, Justinianic plague had claimed the lives of more than a million, and apparently, the cause of this plague, a bacterium known as Yersinia pestis, is also the cause of the Bubonic plague known today.

The cause of the Justinianic plague has been a topic of debate since a long time, and finally, this revelation may put an end to it all.

Ancient DNA from plague victims were examined carefully, to reveal a bit more information about the phylogeny and the origin of the plague that hit the empire decades ago.

The DNA analysis was done on the remains found in the early medieval cemetery of Aschheim in Bavaria. A deep study finally confirmed it all, however, there is still a lot more to be learnt about this plague.

Y. pestis, a rod shaped bacterium, is now officially held responsible for what the world knows as 'Black Death,' claiming the lives of those infected in a matter of days.

"Our findings confirm that Y. pestis was responsible for the Justinianic Plague, which should end the controversy regarding the etiology of this pandemic," wrote the study's authors in the journal PloS Pathogens.

A DNA analysis was vital to confirm the exact cause behind this plague, Dr Barbara Bramanti of the Paleogenetics Group at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz claims.

"It remains questionable whether at the time of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian only one strain or more were disseminated in Europe, as it was at the time of the Black Death," said Bramanti in a news release.

The epidemic, which claimed the lives of millions, first started from China in 1334 and then moved on to trade routes to reach Constantinople, and finally Europe, wiping out more than 60 percent of the population of Europe during that time.

Luckily for us, we do have access to medicinal health centers and drugs to avoid such large-scale epidemics from eruption the stability of the country, possibly the world.

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