700 Year Old Plaque Still Affects Your Health - Study Says


by Iqra Zafar

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A recent study revealed that the plague pandemic is still affecting our health after 700 years by inducing genetic changes. This study got published in Nature and focussed on finding the current impact of the plague pandemic on human health. 

Plague pandemic that occurred nearly 700 years ago resulted in the death of almost 200 million people. This Black death pathogen spread to Europe in the mid-1300s and swept almost half of the population. Scientists believed that this might have caused changes in the human genome and might have played a significant role in shaping human evolution.

During the study, scientists analyzed the DNA obtained from the centuries-old skeleton. The scientist obtained samples from the teeth and bones of 206 skeletons. These samples were collected from mass burial sites such as East Smithfield plague pits as well as from Denmark. The molecular and genetic analysis of these skeletons revealed some shocking facts.


The finding of the study revolved around the mutations of a gene called ERAP2. This gene is mainly responsible for the synthesis of proteins (antibodies) that can attack foreign invaders in the body and prevent the onset of infection. The Black plaque changes this gene in many ways. The experts involved in the study revealed that the right mutation is that this gene has a 40% greater chance of survival.

The study findings were also confirmed by using plaque bacteria in modern-day experiments. People having the right mutated version of the gene were resistant to the Yersinia pestis aka plaque bacterium infection rather than those who didn’t have a mutated gene.

However, a part of changes in the same gene was also linked with the onset of auto-immune disease which is pretty common these days and affecting human health to a greater extent. "It's the strongest selection event in humans to date," said Professor Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist. He also said that it was like ‘watching the Black Death unfold in a petri-dish - that's eye-opening,”.