Oldest Evidence of Plague Found in Britain by Researchers
The first proof of the epidemic in the nation was discovered by researchers in Britain, where they discovered DNA dating back 4,000 years.
Three cases of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes the plague, were found in human bones, two of which were found in a mass grave in Somerset and one of which was found in a ring cairn memorial in Cumbria.
The scientists collected tiny bone samples from 34 people in order to check for Yersinia pestis in the teeth.
Examining the dental pulp was done because it contains infectious disease DNA.
To make the discovery, scientists from the Francis Crick Institute collaborated with researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Levens Local History Group, and Wells and Mendip Museum.
“The ability to detect ancient pathogens from degraded samples, from thousands of years ago, is incredible,” first author and PhD candidate Pooja Swali said.
“These genomes can give us information on the historical distribution and evolutionary changes of pathogens, and they may also make it clearer which genes may play a role in the development of infectious diseases.
“We observe that this Yersinia pestis lineage, including genomes from this study, loses genes over time, a pattern that has emerged with later epidemics caused by the same pathogen,” the study’s authors write.
The experts also looked at the DNA and found three cases of Yersinia pestis. Two of the victims were children who were between 10 and 12 years old when they died, and the third was a woman between the ages of 35 and 45.
Based on what was found, it seems likely that all three people lived around the same time.
Researchers think that people moving into Eurasia around 4800 BP brought this type of the plague, called the late Neolithic and Bronze Age lineage, into Central and Western Europe.
Now, this study shows that it went all the way to Britain.