The phylogenetic origins of one of humanity’s biggest killers

Plague has been responsible for some of the most high-mortality pandemics in human history and has been studied extensively by both historians and scientists. Most laypeople are familiar with the Black Death and the demographic consequences it had on Europe in the Middle Ages. Less well understood however is the molecular history of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that is the causative agent of penumonic, septicemic and bubonic plague. A post over at the Contagions blog details the phylogenetic tree of this bacterium to explain how scientists are using genomic sequencing to reconstruct the emergence of different strains of Yersinia pestis through history.

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