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Black Death Plague
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OldTimeRadioOffline
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PostPosted: 04-03-2011 03:42    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please permit me to ask one more question - to what extent (if any) was the severity of the Black Plague of 1347-1350 made worse by the massive European famine of some 30 years earlier?

Surely many of the Plague victims had grown up terribly under-nourished, and that can't be the best way to face any pandemic.
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staticgirlOffline
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PostPosted: 04-03-2011 22:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

In answer to that last question I bet it had a massive effect on the susceptibility of the general public to the Black Death. I also wonder if more people migrated to towns* as they couldn't get food from the land and therefore lived in closer proximity to others who fell ill....

*I would need migration data...
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ramonmercadoOffline
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PostPosted: 05-03-2011 16:08    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here they appear sequentially.
http://www.vlib.us/medieval/lectures/black_death.html
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OldTimeRadioOffline
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PostPosted: 10-03-2011 07:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks kindly, Staticgirl and Ramon.

Now I still need an answer to my Septicemic Fever question
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Quake42Offline
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PostPosted: 12-10-2011 22:34    Post subject: Black Death Reply with quote

Couldn't find an existing thread on this; feel free to merge if one existed. Interesting research:

Quote:
Black Death genetic code

The genetic code of the germ that caused the Black Death has been reconstructed by scientists for the first time.

The researchers extracted DNA fragments of the ancient bacterium from the teeth of medieval corpses found in London.

They say the pathogen is the ancestor of all modern plagues.

The research, published in the journal Nature, suggests the 14th Century outbreak was also the first plague pandemic in history.

Humans have rarely encountered an enemy as devastating as the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Between 1347 and 1351 it sparked the Black Death, an infection carried by fleas that spread rapidly across Europe killing around 50 million people.

Now scientists have uncovered some of the genetic secrets of the plague, thanks to DNA fragments drilled from the teeth of victims buried in a graveyard in London's East Smithfield.

Professor Johannes Krause from the University of Tubingen, Germany, was a member of the research team. He said all current strains circulating in the world are directly related to the medieval bacterium.

"It turns out that this ancient Yersinia pestis strain is very close to the common ancestor of all modern strains that can infect humans," he said.

"It's the grandmother of all plague that's around today."

Previously researchers had assumed the Black Death was another in a long line of plague outbreaks dating back to ancient Greece and Rome.

The Justinian Plague that broke out in the 6th Century was estimated to have killed 100 million people. But the new research indicates that plagues like the Justinian weren't caused by the same agent as the medieval epidemic.

"It suggests they were either caused by a Yersinia pestis strain that is completely extinct and it didn't leave any descendants which are still around today or it was caused by a different pathogen that we have no information about yet," said Professor Krause.

Tooth power

Globally the infection still kills 2,000 people a year. But it presents much less of a threat now than in the 14th Century.

DNA fragments were extracted from teeth
According to another member of the research team, Dr Hendrik Poinar, a combination of factors enhanced the virulence of the medieval outbreak.

"We are looking at many different factors that affected this pandemic, the virulence of the pathogen, co-circulating pathogens, and the climate which we know was beginning to dip - it got very cold very wet very quickly - this constellation resulted in the ultimate Black Death."

Rebuilding the genetic code of the bacterium from DNA fragments was not easy, say the scientists.

They removed teeth from skeletons found in an ancient graveyard in London located under what is now the Royal Mint.

Dr Kirsten Bos from McMaster University explained how the process worked.

"If you actually crack open an ancient tooth you see this dark black powdery material and that's very likely to be dried up blood and other biological tissues.

"So what I did was I opened the tooth and opened the pulp chamber and with a drill bit made one pass through and I took out only about 30 milligrams of material, a very very small amount and that's the material I used to do the DNA work."

From the dental pulp the researchers were able to purify and enrich the pathogen's DNA, and exclude material from human and fungal sources.

The researchers believe the techniques they have developed in this work can be used to study the genomes of many other ancient pathogens.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15278366
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JamesWhiteheadOffline
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PostPosted: 13-10-2011 10:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't wait for the practical consequences of this research! Shocked
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ramonmercadoOffline
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PostPosted: 13-10-2011 11:54    Post subject: Reply with quote

JamesWhitehead wrote:
Can't wait for the practical consequences of this research! Shocked


Hmmm, no answer to any phones in Tubingen University.
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gncxxOffline
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PostPosted: 13-10-2011 17:07    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's an article in the current FT about the Black Death that says it might not have been spread by rats and fleas at all, because the facts don't quite add up.
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CuriousIdentOffline
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PostPosted: 14-10-2011 12:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are we sure that extracting long dead disease, and bringing it back to life, is really that great an idea? Shocked
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MythopoeikaOffline
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PostPosted: 14-10-2011 19:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

CuriousIdent wrote:
Are we sure that extracting long dead disease, and bringing it back to life, is really that great an idea? Shocked


It isn't that great an idea, but most people in Europe have a certain level of hereditary immunity. Also, nutrition, healthcare and medicine are much better than they were in the time of The Black Death. These days, if you catch it, the medics will just dose you up with something.
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Anome_Offline
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PostPosted: 14-10-2011 20:38    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, it's not a terribly good idea, but there may be benefits to doing it.

Although, Y. Pestis is hardly long dead. It exists in rodent populations in California, and other parts of the world, although the current infection rate is no more than a couple of individuals a year. And as long as it's just Bubonic Plague, they can be treated with antibiotics usually. (Pneumonic Plague is much nastier. Probably can be cured with antibiotics, but you'd have to get to them fast.)

There is of course, also the theory that the Black Death wasn't Y. Pestis at all, but something else. There are, as noted above, inconsistencies in the epidemiological profile.
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ramonmercadoOffline
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PostPosted: 08-09-2012 22:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plague survivors were stronger and lived longer.

Quote:
Decoding the Black Death: Anthropologist Finds Clues in Medieval Skeletons
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905134826.htm

Skeletal marker: Linear enamel hypoplasia. (Credit: Sharon DeWitte)
ScienceDaily (Sep. 5, 2012) — Each time Sharon DeWitte takes a 3-foot by 1-foot archival box off the shelf at the Museum of London she hopes it will be heavy.

"Heavy means you know you have a relatively complete skeleton," said DeWitte, an anthropologist at the University of South Carolina who has spent summers examining hundreds of Medieval skeletons, each time shedding new light on the dark subject of the Black Death.

Since 2003, DeWitte has been studying the medieval mass killer that wiped out 30 percent of Europeans and nearly half of Londoners from 1347-1351. She is among a small group of scientists devoted to decoding the ancient plague and the person researchers turn to for providing evidence from skeletal remains.

Her findings may provide clues about the effects of disease on human evolution.

"It can tell us something about the nature of human variation today and whether there is an artifact of diseases we have faced in the past. Knowing how strongly these diseases can actually shape human biology can give us tools to work with in the future to understand disease and how it might affect us," she said.

Having previously analyzed more than 600 skeletons of people who died during and after the Black Death, DeWitte turned her attention this summer to studying the remains of some 300 people who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries before the Black Death. Comparing the life span of people who lived before and after the blight, she expected to see a post-Black Death population that lived longer. The more complete the skeletons she studies, the more information she has about the people and their health at the time they died.

"I found that a significantly higher number of people were living to really old ages after the Black Death. Many people lived beyond the age of 50 and particularly above the age of 70," DeWitte said. "I honestly was surprised by how dramatic the difference was in their survival. I've analyzed risks of mortality within the pre-and post-Black Death populations, and the preliminary results suggest lower overall risks of mortality after the Black Death."

DeWitte attributes the longevity of the population to two things: The Black Death's selectivity in targeting people who were frail and in poor health and a rise in living standards after the Black Death that resulted in better diet and improved housing.

"We see this pattern in modern populations. With improvements in diet, medical care and hygiene, you tend to see decreases in death from infectious disease," DeWitte said. "Many people who survived the Black Death did so because they were basically healthier and their descendants were probably healthier. Because so many people died from the Black Death, wages increased for the people who survived. People of all social classes were eating better food, which would have had strong effects on health."

DeWitte, an assistant professor in USC's College of Arts and Sciences, spent five weeks in London gathering data, checking out 12 to 16 boxes each day from the museum's holdings. In each box, under a thin layer of foam, are parts of a skeleton arranged in separate and clear bags and marked with a cemetery code, burial number and excavation date.

"I look for the parts of the skeleton that are going to tell me about age at death and sex, and then I look for a suite of skeletal stress markers that give me a general idea of how healthy people were," DeWitte said.

DeWitte says where the two halves of the pelvis meet in the front and join in the rear provide consistent signs of adult aging. For children, teeth and the fusing of certain bones are among the best indicators of age. To determine sex, she looks for a wider pelvis in women and a squared jaw and skull made rugged along the forehead and back by testosterone in men.

A trio of skeletal markers provides DeWitte with clues about general health.

She looks for porous lesions that form on the top inside of the eye socket and the top of the skull. The sponge-like appearance of the lesion indicates diseases such as anemia, the result of a common response by the body to redirect iron sources when fighting infection, or scurvy.

She also examines for linear enamel hypoplasia, or little horizontal grooves that form on the teeth of children whose enamel formation was interrupted by malnutrition or infectious disease. Visible to the naked eye, these defects remain through adulthood and tell DeWitte the ages of when the health disturbances would have occurred.

"These markers are an indication of stress to the body's health," she said.

DeWitte's research in London this summer was funded by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Association for Physical Anthropologists. After collecting the data, she headed to Santa Fe, N.M., for a residential fellowship at the School for Advanced Research to analyze it.

She said she plans to return to London next summer to investigate skeletons excavated from London's Spitalfields cemetery, which was excavated in the 1990s and includes mass graves.

"I want to look at a series of people over time who died right before the Black Death -- from 1000 to 1200 and then from 1200 to 1300 -- to see the general trends in health and to understand essentially how sick people were before the Black Death," DeWitte said.

"Historical documents suggest there were repeated crop famines and huge die-offs of cattle and sheep. I want to look at carefully whether people increasingly were becoming less healthy right before the Black Death to get at the question of why the Black Death emerged when it did."

This year she also will begin collaborating with DNA experts at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario to look at human genetic variation before and after the Black Death.

"The survivors were either tremendously lucky or there was something about them that made them better able to resist the Black Death or mount a really strong immune response to disease," DeWitte said. ###

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of South Carolina.
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staticgirlOffline
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PostPosted: 09-09-2012 11:48    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting!

It would be interesting if she or someone else was to study the following popuations up to 1800 too to investigate the following waves of plague and other epidemics.

I wonder how the afeter effects of Spanish flu affected the populations of Europe in the 1920s.....
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Ringo_Offline
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PostPosted: 21-09-2012 09:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

OldTimeRadio wrote:
Thie prvious post gives me an opportunity to ask a question that has dogged me for years - Where the 19th Century European outbreaks of Septicemic Plague which were (then) blamed upon decayiing corpses piled high on Napoleonic battlefields caused by Yersinia Pestis, or was this another disease entirely?


Septicemic Plague is caused by Yersinia Pestis although this form of plague is not caused by inhalation. It is contracted through the bloodstream (infected bite etc) and has an untreated mortality rate of more or less 100%. Nasty way to go.
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SameOldVardoger
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PostPosted: 30-09-2012 07:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen a tv-show Acient Aliens, which gave aliens the blame for the black death:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtNo16D__vA
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