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Oldest Yersinia pestis genome of bubonic plague

Penelitian - The international team led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History analyzed two genes of 3,800-year-old Yersinia pestis that opened the origin of plague disease in the Bronze Age. The burial in Samara in Russia has the same bacterial strain as the ancestor that caused Justinian Plague, the Black Death and epidemic outbreaks in the late 1800s in China.

The outbreaks caused by Y. pestis become some of the deadliest pandemics in the world and the disease continues to affect the population around the world today. The origin and age of the disease are not well understood, especially about when and where Y. pestis acquires a virulence profile and spreads through a vector of lice.

Penelitian Oldest Yersinia pestis genome of bubonic plague

The ancient genome of Y. pestis identifies the earliest variants to the Late Neolithic End and Early Bronze, but this genome does not exhibit genetic signatures that are thought to make the epidemic very efficient including the adaptation for survival in ticks as the primary vector for reaching mammals.

The researchers analyzed nine skeletons in which two people were infected with Y. pestis at the time of death and buried together in a cemetery of about 3,800 years old. The analysis of human DNA suggests the individual may have originated from the Srubnaya culture that matches the archaeological evidence.

"Both individuals appear to have the same Y. pestis strain and have all the genetic components we know for the form of plague," says Kirsten Bos of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Data were collected to calculate the age of lineage that pushed back the earliest bubonic outbreak. Previous studies have identified a Y. pestis genealogy that was then present throughout Eurasia during the Bronze Age, but recent reports show at least two outbreak lineages and may have included different transmission and virulence characteristics.

Journal : Maria A. Spyrou et al. Analysis of 3800-year-old Yersinia pestis genomes suggests Bronze Age origin for bubonic plague, Nature Communications, 08 June 2018, DOI:10.1038/s41467-018-04550-9