The Two Plagues

New research has revealed that the two greatest plagues to befall Europe may have come from a common origin. The Justinian Plague, which swept across Asia, Arabia, North Africa and Europe in the 6th century a.d claimed the lives of 30 to 50 million people (nearly half the population of the world at the time) and helped topple the Roman Empire. Some 800 years later, the Black Death killed 50 million people in Europe between 137 and 1351 a.d. Despite the lengthy hiatus between the two, scientists now believe they derived from the same pathogen. 

The research raises vital questions about the virus, such as why did it die out when it did? Some specialists suggest people developed an immunity to it . Others argue changing weather conditions made the environment uninhabitable to it. 

The other question scientists are asking is whether the pathogen could strike again. Researchers in the field say it is possible, but with the advancement of modern antibiotics it's unlikely it would have as great an impact as it did in the past. To read more head to Science Daily and to witness further horrors of the plague stay at Science Source. 

Woodcut of the plague

Plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis)

Plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis)