The Black Death pandemic swept across Europe in the mid-14th century killing about half the population. It was caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. This strain of bacteria is still around today, but intriguingly it causes far fewer deaths. To find out why, researchers reconstructed a medieval Yersinia pestis genome -- and compared it to the genomes of contemporary strains. The team, led by German scientist Johannes Krause, made use of recent technological advances in DNA recovery and analysis to examine DNA from the skeletons of four individuals buried in East Smithfield in London, a well-known medieval burial site for victims of the Black Death. Read the original research paper here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature10549 And read the feature here: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111025/full/478444a.html
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