Scientists discover oldest strain of bacteria responsible for bubonic plague

Scientists discover oldest strain of bacteria responsible for bubonic plague

The remains of the man officially termed “RV 2039” were found in Latvia during the late 1800s.

Researchers claim to have found the oldest strain of bacteria responsible for the deadly bubonic plague which killed millions of people across Asia and Europe in the mid-1300s.

According to the study published in the journal Cell Reports, a bacteria called Yersinia pestis was discovered in what remained of a 500-year-old corpse, possibly of a hunter-gatherer.

The remains of the man officially termed “RV 2039” were found in Latvia during the late 1800s. Examination of these remains revealed that the man was aged between 20-30 during his demise, and was among the four specimen discovered in a territory called Rinnukalns.

How was the bacteria found?

To test the remains from the man’s teeth and bones for bacterial and viral pathogens, scientists from the University of Kiel in Germany used genome sequencing.

Not much later, they found concrete evidence of Yersinia pestis bacteria in RV 2039’s bloodstream. Believed to be the oldest known strain of bacteria to be ever discovered, the strain constitutes a lineage of bacteria that persisted about 7,000 years ago.

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In a release, Ben Krause-Kyora, author of the study said that the most astonishing facet of this study is perhaps the fact that the “appearance of Y. Pestis” can be pushed back by 2,000 years than previously believed. Krause-Kyora also added that they might be “really close” to the origin of the bacteria.

Even though the strain is believed to be less infectious and deadly than the one which killed millions during the Black Death. According to the study, the ancient bacteria lacked a particular gene which enabled fleas to pass on the plague to others, acting as vectors.

Scientists posit that the man likely died through a bite from an infected animal which transmitted the bacterial infection to him. The disease is believed to have progressed slowly in RV 2039.

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