Black Death sequenced

October 20, 2011
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

Dina Fanara

Assistant News Editor


Researchers from McMaster University and the University of Tubingen in Germany have joined together to collaboratively and successfully uncover the long sought out secret behind one of the most catastrophic diseases of European history.

The genome most commonly known as  Black Death, but also known as the Bubonic Plague, or the Black Plague, was successfully extracted in its entirety and recreated by scientists from McMaster and Tubingen for the first time.

This is a critical scientific discovery, which will open the doors for similar progress to be made in the near future.

Between 1347 and 1351, the plague was responsible for killing over 50 million Europeans, between one third and one half of Europe’s population.

The group of scientists on the project, consisting of Kirsten Bos and Hendrick Poniar (also chair of paleogenetics in Canada) of McMaster University and Johannes Krause and Verena Schuenmann of the University of Tubingen, have managed to recreate the Black Death genome in its entirety.

This is the first time that scientists have successfully created the genome for an ancient disease, especially one of this magnitude.

This gives scientists a better sense of the evolution of modern diseases, which creates significant potential for future discoveries in disease control.

The team has managed to piece the disease back together by taking strands of DNA from bone fragments of those who initially died of the disease and extracting the fragments of this ancient disease, followed by sequencing of the DNA

The bones used for this research came from the British Museum of London, home of over one hundred victims discovered in a mass burial site from 1348-1350.

An evolved form of the Black Death still exists, killing roughly two thousand globally per year, a death rate much less than the common strands of the original flu.

The report on this discovery was initially published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in September.

This preliminary writeup was soon to be followed by an updated version of the report in the popular scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.