Monday, November 1, 2010

Black Death (too late for Halloween)

Geneticists get in on the act: they trace the genetic history of Yersinia pestis, the bug that causes bubonic plague, and find out that 1) the 14th-century "Black Death" plague in Europe was, indeed, Yersinia pestis (a fact which some have disputed, claiming that maybe it was anthrax)...and 2) all three major waves of plague (Justinian's 6th century AD, the 14th-cent. Black Death, and the Hong Kong outbreak in the late 19th century) originated in China, which seems to be the homeland of Yersinia pestis.
I have a great book about Mr. Yersin, who first isolated the bug in Hong Kong in the 1890s.
"Plague: A Story of Science, Rivalry, and the Scourge that Won't Go Away," by Edward Marriott (NY: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2002)

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