Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yersinia pestis genome sequenced from victims of Black Death

The DNA of Y. pestis, the bacterium responsible for Black Death (BD) that swept across Europe from 1347-1351, was isolated from the dental pulp of several BD victims (exhumed from an established BD burial ground). 30-fold sequence coverage was achieved for the genome, and phylogenetic comparisons with other modern Y. pestis genomes revealed that all strains of Y. pestis originated in medieval times, with the BD strain representing one of the most basal strains. Interestingly, there were no derived substitution positions in the BD strain suggesting that the seemingly increased virulence attributed to this strain's potency was likely due to other factors such as the host's genetic background, climate, social conditions, and vector dynamics.

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