Scientists from KFU and the University of Tubingen reconstructed Yersinia pestis' genome found in human remains in Bolghar, Tatarstan.
The findings confirmed the fact of Black Death visiting the Volga region in 14th century. Research group leader Dr. Johannes Krause told us that the genome is now being compared with those found in China and Europe in order to follow the pathogen's route across Eurasia.
"To put it simply, we want to find out who infected whom, where was the pesthole located, - said Krause. – The problem is that the pathogen evolves and becomes antibiotic-resistant, every year 2 500 people in the world die from plague. We want to explore how fast does it evolve, mutate and get adjusted to the medications. This way we can make forecasts on how the bacteria will behave in future".
Dr. Krause admits that epidemics can still arise. "It is possible because one bacterium is enough to kill a person. It is especially dangerous if the infection is airborne. On the other hand, plague is communicated through fleas who are in turn infected by rodents. So the chain is pretty long, nowadays the probability of a pandemic is pretty miniscule. We know how to fight the disease, we just have to learn to predict its mutations to be even more successful".
The research is now ongoing at the Paleoanthropology and Paleogenetics Lab of KFU. The diggings in Bolghar became possible thanks to the regional program of the Fund for the Restoration of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Tatarstan.