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Study uncovers mystery about the arrival of plague in Europe

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yersinia-pestis
View of Yersinia pestis bacteria with 200 fluorescence magnification. This bacterium carried by fleas is responsible for the various manifestations of the plague.

It killed more than 30 million people in Europe, especially in the 14th century. The plague is one of the most devastating diseases of our modern history. But until now, we did not know how the deadly bacteria entered European soil.

Yersinia Pestis is a great traveler! This bacterium at the origin of the plague appeared in the Eurasian steppes, now become Mongolia or Kazakhstan. Then, some 4,800 years ago, nomads who had set out to conquer the west of the continent brought with them the deadly bacteria.

Ironically, it is perhaps even to flee the first outbreaks of plague that affected Eurasia that men of the Neolithic have left this region. In wanting to escape the epidemic, they would have actually spread it.

With the help of the men, Yersinia Pestis safely crosses mountains, seas and deserts and arrives in Europe. 1,700 years before our era. It is there that it will grow, for hundreds of years, to become more and more virulent.

To arrive at such conclusions, the researchers analyzed more than 500 teeth and bones of nomads found in Germany, Russia or Croatia. On the remains of six individuals, the scientists found the complete DNA of the bacteria. It remains to be seen whether the plague entered Europe repeatedly or all at once at the end of the Neolithic.

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