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Assessing the origins of the European Plagues following the Black Death: a synthesis of genomic, historical and ecological information

By Barbara Bramanti, Yarong Wu, Ruifu Yang, Yujun Cui, Nils Christian Stenseth

Posted 20 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.20.440561

The Second Plague Pandemic started in Europe with the Black Death in 1346 and lasted until the 19th century. Based on ancient DNA studies, there is a scientific disagreement over whether the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, came into Europe once (Hypothesis 1), or repeatedly over the following four centuries (Hypothesis 2). Here we synthesize the most updated phylogeny together with historical, archeological, evolutionary and ecological information. On the basis of this holistic view, we conclude that Hypothesis 2 is the most plausible. We also suggest that Y. pestis lineages might have developed attenuated virulence during transmission, which can explain the convergent evolutionary signals, including pla-decay, that appeared at the end of the pandemics.

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