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'Black Death' bacteria likely extinct, study finds - Comments

dwdeclare's Avatar Comment 1 by dwdeclare

"We never really conquer germs, we just wrestle them to a draw at best"

ahh, the old evolutionary arms race...can't we just all evolve to live symbiotically?

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 17:44:56 UTC | #865622

Crimbly's Avatar Comment 2 by Crimbly

Comment 1 by Hawaiian_Shirt :

"We never really conquer germs, we just wrestle them to a draw at best"

ahh, the old evolutionary arms race...can't we just all evolve to live symbiotically?

Nope, we evolved to be able to open screwcaps on these new-fangled shower gels bottles. ;)

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 18:12:08 UTC | #865629

dwdeclare's Avatar Comment 3 by dwdeclare

Comment 2 by Crimbly :

Comment 1 by Hawaiian_Shirt :

"We never really conquer germs, we just wrestle them to a draw at best"

ahh, the old evolutionary arms race...can't we just all evolve to live symbiotically?

Nope, we evolved to be able to open screwcaps on these new-fangled shower gels bottles. ;)

i always knew teleology was true...i just never imagined that opening shower gel bottles would be our final destination. truly we now have dominion...and with shiny hair to boot.

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 18:25:38 UTC | #865632

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 4 by Stevehill

'Black Death' bacteria likely extinct

Oh good, that had been giving me a lot of sleepless nights!

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 19:46:11 UTC | #865647

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 5 by God fearing Atheist

What I like about this site is that if you ask a question, a team of scientists will hurry off and do the research. :-)

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 20:50:43 UTC | #865670

Philster61's Avatar Comment 6 by Philster61

'Black Death' bacteria likely extinct,

How long until we can announce the same for AIDS/HIV?

I wonder how closely related the AIDS virus is to the Bubonic plaque.If at all.....

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 21:07:39 UTC | #865674

Kim Probable's Avatar Comment 7 by Kim Probable

Comment 6 by Philster61 :

I wonder how closely related the AIDS virus is to the Bubonic plaque.If at all.....

Well, bubonic plague seems to be caused by Yersinia, which is a bacteria. HIV is a retrovirus, and viruses aren't really living, or they're considered to be in a state between living and nonliving. So they're not really related to one another.

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 21:18:33 UTC | #865677

VCH's Avatar Comment 8 by VCH

Does anyone have a link to the actual article?

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 22:04:40 UTC | #865687

nancynancy's Avatar Comment 9 by nancynancy

That would be very comforting news -- if it were true.

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 00:05:29 UTC | #865717

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 10 by Vicktor

Sounds to me like inspiration for an upcoming disaster movie script.

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 03:54:31 UTC | #865771

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 11 by strangebrew

Comment 6 by Philster61

I wonder how closely related the AIDS virus is to the Bubonic plaque.If at all.....

As far as I am aware they are not related at all but a strange effect has been recorded where a few lucky folk have a gene that affectively prevents infection from either.

Speculation seems centered on the survivors of the black death epidemics that ravaged Europe and elsewhere around the 15th century.. These folk seemingly contracted the virus but survived. Eyam village had a very high occurrence rate amongst residents, possibly to do with a fair amount of generational inbreeding, but they were largely untouched by the disaster. Seems that the gene responsible...CCR5-delta 32... was passed on,

That interesting point is that it seems that same gene can confer immunity to HIV .

It apparently codes for a awkward attachment point in a cell, that viruses utilize normally, rendering the Virus impotent.

So although the two infections are not related in a phyla sense , they both succumb to the same weakness in tactic.

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 06:46:30 UTC | #865784

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 12 by justinesaracen

Since bubonic plague still exists and kills people today (and could be similarly virulent without medication), the discovery that the particular 14th cent. strain of the virus is extinct seems to me to be of only academic interest.

What I'd rather know is what -- in the absence of medication or even hygiene -- caused the plague to stop? What factors prevented it from wiping out the entire population? Was it because people began killing the rats? Or that some people had plague-resistant DNA?

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 06:57:51 UTC | #865786

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 13 by Robert Howard

Comment 12 by esuther :

Since bubonic plague still exists and kills people today (and could be similarly virulent without medication), the discovery that the particular 14th cent. strain of the virus is extinct seems to me to be of only academic interest. What I'd rather know is what -- in the absence of medication or even hygiene -- caused the plague to stop? What factors prevented it from wiping out the entire population? Was it because people began killing the rats? Or that some people had plague-resistant DNA?

When I was a kid, we were taught in school that it was the Great fire of London which was responsible for ending the spread of plague, at least in England, although I gather that this theory has since been debunked.

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 07:21:03 UTC | #865792

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 14 by justinesaracen

It would be interesting to discover whether genetics played a role. That is, were there people who were simply resistant and survived and had children who were resistant? If so, then human evolution took one giant leap in northern Europe in a single century, maybe in a single generation. Anyone on this list who has studied the Plague?

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 08:15:11 UTC | #865802

Trojan Horus 's Avatar Comment 15 by Trojan Horus

Small mutations don't necessarily mean it's not potentially around...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/science/30microbe.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.mc_id=SC-SM-E-FB-SM-LIN-BGS-083011-NYT-NA&WT.mc_ev=click

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 10:54:46 UTC | #865827

labman's Avatar Comment 16 by labman

@ 14 esuther- There have been posts here on the recent article on RD dismissing the Black Rat as the animal vector. Although the 14th century plague killed off up to 50% of the population a proportion were resistant and recovered. Additionally some escaped it all together. Those of us whose pedigrees go back to those areas are all descendants from the survivors(!). Whether we are now immune or resistant is an entirely different matter.

Plague, as a disease, is still endemic in parts of the world - e.g California and SW USA. As previously stated my own preference as to the cause is a haemorrhagic virus but unlike the religionists I am open to current scientific knowledge!

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 13:34:44 UTC | #865873

jbyrd's Avatar Comment 17 by jbyrd

This article must be false....I just saw a patient diagnosed with the bubonic plague on House last week!!! =)

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 17:27:26 UTC | #865946

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 18 by strangebrew

Comment 17 by jbyrd

....I just saw a patient diagnosed with the bubonic plague on House last week!!! =)

Lol...but on another note there is some speculation that Ebola was the actual killer back then... It was possibly misdiagnosed because no one has ever come across it before...and the Bubonic story was taken from sailors tales cos they were the only folk to have actually seen anything remotely like the contagion that swept Europe at the time!

Apparently they present identically...now that is a pause for thought cos Ebola is far from under control..and damned lethal still.

Speculation but with a grain of possibility I suppose. It was how the Dog head myths started and got incorporated into the map of Mundy I presume? Tall tales based on the sailors natural superstition, lack of natural knowledge and local horror stories go along way to explain some weird tales.

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 18:23:48 UTC | #865957

paulmcuk's Avatar Comment 19 by paulmcuk

The Daily Mail managed to present the same story in a way that suggested we were all about to die.

Thu, 01 Sep 2011 16:00:59 UTC | #866366

A. R's Avatar Comment 20 by A. R

Truly fascinating stuff, I would explain some of the differences we see between the modern strains, and the 14th Century strain. However, as an Ebola research scientist, I do have a few qualms about the comparison of the Black Death to Ebola infection, as descriptions of the former bear little resemblance to the symptoms of Filovirus (the viral family that contains the Ebola and Marburg viruses) infection.

Thu, 01 Sep 2011 23:23:03 UTC | #866499

brighterstill's Avatar Comment 21 by brighterstill

Comment 12 by esuther :

Since bubonic plague still exists and kills people today (and could be similarly virulent without medication), the discovery that the particular 14th cent. strain of the virus is extinct seems to me to be of only academic interest. What I'd rather know is what -- in the absence of medication or even hygiene -- caused the plague to stop? What factors prevented it from wiping out the entire population? Was it because people began killing the rats? Or that some people had plague-resistant DNA?

So-called "Crowd Diseases" which sweep quickly through groups of organisms because they are highly contagious have evolved with the species which make up those crowds. Natural selection has left us with diseases which can only afford to kill a certain proportion of the crowd species: if they killed every host, the disease causing germs would quickly go extinct. The disease causing germs need to balance how contagious they are as well as how quickly they might kill a host with the likelihood that host will successfully spread the disease to new organisms. Because both these factors largely depend on the "crowd" conditions - how close people live to one another, what vectors exist to spread the disease, what types of medical care protect potential hosts, even whether the symptoms will be misdiagnosed or dismissed, a single disease will have great difficulty successfully infecting and killing every individual in every crowd. Like mega-predators hunting food, the diseases effectively target the weakest and most vulnerable individuals and crowds, incidentally leaving a more robust genepool of hosts in their wake.

Tue, 06 Sep 2011 12:04:35 UTC | #867858