Black Death bacteria may have felled the Roman Empire

01/28/2014 | New Scientist

Sequenced DNA from two skeletons buried in 6th-century Germany suggests that a virulent plague that struck the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Justinian in 541 A.D. came from a strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that caused the Black Death, which struck Europe in 1348. Scientists mapped the entire genome of Y. pestis with DNA found in the skeletons' teeth, according to a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, which warns that it could emerge again. Study leader Hendrik Poinar of the McMaster University in Canada said that Y. pestis may not have been the sole cause of both plagues, but is more likely "part of the larger story."

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