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While Digging In English Mass Burial Sites, Researchers Discovered The DNA Of The Bacteria That Caused The Bubonic Plague In Human Remains Dating Back To The Bronze Age

Garry Basnett - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only

In England, a team of researchers digging among mass burial sites has come across the DNA of the bacteria that caused the Bubonic plague in some human remains dating back to the Bronze Age. It is the earliest known evidence of the disease in Great Britain.

It turns out that 4,000 years before the Black Death that devastated medieval Europe in the 14th century, the plague was already making its rounds in Britain.

Previously, the oldest strain was from 1,500 years ago and was discovered in 2018 at Edix Hill, a burial site in Cambridgeshire.

The bacteria that caused the plague is called Yersinia pestis, and it was found at two different burial sites. One bacteria sample was taken from southwest England in the county of Somerset.

The other was from the northwestern county of Cumbria. According to the study’s lead author, Pooja Swali, the distance between the sites indicated that the disease was widespread during that time.

To locate the ancient bacteria, scientists analyzed the remains of 34 bodies across the two sites. They drilled into the skeletons’ teeth to remove the dental pulp.

Since teeth are very resistant to decay, the dental pulp can preserve DNA remnants of infectious diseases.

Ultimately, experts determined that the plague made a significant appearance in Britain twice throughout the ages.

It first emerged 4,000 years ago and again 1,500 years ago. However, the strain of Yersinia pestis extracted from the burial sites did not carry the gene that allowed it to be transmissible through fleas, which was a trait that was present in the strain that brought about the Black Death.

Garry Basnett – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only

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