An international team of scientists have concluded that the plague known as the Black Death originated in China over 2600 years ago. In the article, ‘Yersinia pestis genome sequencing identifies patterns of global phylogenetic diversity’, which was published this week in the online edition of the journal Nature Genetics, the team used used genome sequencing to track the spread of the plague from the medieval period to the 19th century.
The plague evolved in the vicinity of China over 2000 years ago and spread repeatedly around the world in deadly pandemics. The scientists compared 17 complete plague genome sequences and 933 variable DNA sites on a unique global collection of plague isolates (bacterial strains). This information allowed the team to track the progress of historical pandemics throughout the world, and to calculate the age of different waves. Most of these events could be linked to known major historical events, such as the Black Death.
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