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Biotech Medicine

Scientists Sequence Black Death Bacteria 265

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-go-wrong? dept.
First time accepted submitter Quince alPillan writes "The bacteria behind the Black Death has a very unusual history. Its ancestor is an unassuming soil bacterium and the current strains of Yersinia pestis still infects thousands of people annually, but no longer causes the suite of horrifying symptoms associated with the medieval plagues. The radical differences, in fact, had led some to suggest that we had been blaming the wrong bacteria. Now, researchers have obtained DNA from some of London's plague victims, and confirmed that Y. pestis appears to be to blame. But the sequences also suggest that the strains of bacteria we see today may be different from the ones that rampaged through Europe."
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Scientists Sequence Black Death Bacteria

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  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @11:31AM (#37254892)

    All this "This latest pandemic is going to kill us ALL!!" Chicken Little shit gets tiresome. The Littles always cite the Black Death and 1918 pandemic [wikipedia.org] as if that's what we could expect from a pandemic today--all without noting the MASSIVE improvements in sanitation, medical science, vaccine research, etc. that make this scale of pandemic highly unlikely in the modern era.

    I don't think I read the same summary and article as you did.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @11:53AM (#37255146) Homepage

    Of course, there are still some third-world shitholes where people think that a witch-doctor rubbing feces on an open wound will ward off the evil spirits.

    I'm not sure where you got that image of how those sorts of shaman/healer types do their jobs. They'll usually go with attempts at herbal treatment that have a chance of working that is slightly better than a placebo, based on learning from previous generations who figured out that rubbing feces on wounds was a good way to cause the patient to get even sicker and die. They tend to pick their herbs for apparent effectiveness, and often have chosen things with the right chemical compound or physiological effects, just not at as high a concentration or as good a delivery system as Western medicines.

    Those healers from isolated tribes today, and our cavemen before us, were the brainy folks in their societies, and there's no reason to think they were any stupider than we are. They are just working with very limited tools, and are quite ignorant.

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