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Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a deadly strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.
They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.
This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it’s usually called the Justinian plague.
Yersinia pestis and the Plague of Justinian 541–543 AD: a genomic analysis. David M Wagner PhD, Jennifer Klunk BS, et al. The Lancet Infectious Diseases - 28 January 2014. DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70323-2
Graduate student Jennifer Klunk of McMaster University examines a tooth used to decode the genome of the ancient plague. McMaster University.