A tooth like this one, found in a 1,500-year-old grave site near Munich, harbored enough blood in the leftover bits of dental pulp that researchers were able to sequence the DNA. In that blood, they found not only human genetic material, but that of a bacterium — Yersinia pestis, aka the plague. The interesting thing here is that the plague of 6th-century Munich is not the same plague that swept through Europe in the 14th century under the nickname Black Death. The discovery means that Y. pestis jumped from rat to flea to human on more than one occasion, producing plagues that are genetically distinct.
The researchers are linking this earlier plague with the Plague of Justinian, a 6th century pandemic that killed millions. There's still debate over whether the Plague of Justinian was caused by the plague, as in Y. pestis, or by something else, largely because descriptions of symptoms don't totally match up with later plague outbreaks and the death toll is much larger than what we see in plague outbreaks today. (Those facts also apply to the Black Death, which was different from the Plague of Justinian and different from modern plague outbreaks.) Based on this evidence, we can't really say much about the Plague of Justinian, for certain. There's nothing directly linking the Munich bodies to it, specifically. But, if the Plague of Justinian was caused by Y. pestis, and there has been more than one time Y. pestis jumped to humans, then the differences between those strains could help explain the differences between the plagues attributed to the bacterium. So that's cool.
NASA today announced that astronomers studying data from NASA’s Great Observatories have found the best evidence yet for “cosmic seeds in the early universe that should grow into supermassive black holes.”
Could you recover a murder victim’s last sight of their killer by extracting it from the retina? Little more than a century ago, forensic scientists thought it might be possible. After all, in 1877 physiologist Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne was able to develop a simple image from an albino rabbit’s dissected eyeball. (Above, the two images […]
Backed by huge donations from vitamin companies, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians is pushing to get naturopathic medicine recognized and regulated in all 50 US states, paving the way to receiving public funds in the form of Medicare reimbursements.
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