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Plague bacteria found in Roman-era remains


The bacterium that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, has been found in DNA samples taken from the remains of 19 different people who lived in 6th century Bavaria.

“After such a long time โ€” nearly 1,500 years, one is still able to detect the agent of plague by modern molecular methods,” researcher Holger Scholz, a molecular microbiologist at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich, Germany, told LiveScience.

The researchers said these findings confirm that the Justinianic Plague crossed the Alps, killing people in what is now Bavaria. Analysis of the DNA suggests that much like the later two pandemics of plague, this first pandemic originated in Asia, “even if historical records say that it arrived first in Africa before spreading to the Mediterranean basin and to Europe,” Bramanti told LiveScience.

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Story: Ewen Callaway, Nature | Photo: Alan Collins/Alamy

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