Monday, July 3, 2017

Bubonic plague in the Bronze age?



BBC LINK (2015...guess I missed it back then).

Nature article here. also 2015.

I was aware that the Justinian plague was P.Pestis but not that it went this far back.

On the other hand, the plague that destroyed the Hittites (brought back with Egyptian POW's) might have been Bubonic plague, so did it have anything to do with the collapse of the Bronze age?

And of course, all those "hemorrhoids" or "boils" in the Philistines when they stole the Arc of the covenant (in the iron age, a couple hundred years later) does sound like the bubos of the plague.

from nature:

But the analysis revealed that plague might have been less transmissible in the early Bronze Age. The six oldest Bronze Age strains lacked a gene called ymt that helps Y. pestis to colonize the guts of fleas, which serve as an important intermediary. In outbreaks of bubonic plague, infected fleas (often travelling on rodents) transmit the bacteria to humans living nearby. Without fleas as a go-between, Y. pestis spreads much less efficiently through blood (where it is known as septicaemic plague) or saliva droplets (pneumonic plague). An early Iron Age skeleton from Armenia dated to around 1000 bcwas infected with Y. pestis that harboured ymt as well as another mutation linked to flea-aided transmission.
Wyndham Lathem, a microbiologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, says that in the absence of ymt, Bronze Age plague victims would have probably contracted pneumonic plague, as opposed to the bubonic form. All the Bronze Age strains also contained another virulence gene, pla, which Lathem's team has shown is important in infecting the lung6.
Plague may have been less transmissible without fleas, but it would have been no less deadly. More than 90% of untreated cases of pneumonic plague are fatal.
credit: Nature
but since pulmonic plague is rapidly fatal, one has to wonder how it spread (discussed in the podcast).

Ancient Egypt plauge article from nat geo.

but how ancient? This grave with plague victims only goes back to 300 BC.

an article on the ten diseases plaguing the ancient world.

update: Good article here discusses the genes for transmission.

And this is new to me: Gastroenteritis from eating meat contaminated by the Pestis germ.

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