Scientists Warn Plague Outbreak could Return in Future

PlagueScientists suspect the return of plague-like the 'Black Death', which took place in Europe in 1300s and the Plague of Justinian, which killed about 100 million people about 800 years back. It has been reported that the above two outbreaks were caused by different strains of the same pathogen.

A warning has been raised by Dave Wagner, Prof. in the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at Northern Arizona University, that the strain of plague could strike again. Many rodents across the world still contain strains of plague and scientists believed that the bacterium Y. pestis has already been transferred from rodents into humans in past history.

Scientists recreated genetic code of bacteria from the DNA fragments of 1,500-year-old teeth from skeletons of two victims of Justinian Plague, which were buried in Bavaria, Germany. They also compared DNA samples with database of hundreds of modern plague pathogens.

They found that the strain responsible for outbreak of Justinian Plague was different from that of strains involved in Black Death and other subsequent pandemics.

Scientists cited an example of a third pandemic, which was caused from a strain similar to that of strain involved in Black Death and was spread from Hong Kong to the rest of the world.

Prof. Wagner suggested that with the development in the field of medical science and technology, some antibiotics have been developed to treat plague, which can cut short the chances of plague outbreak in humans.