Scientists have just reconstructed the genome of an ancient plague, which may shed new light on how certain diseases can either mysteriously disappear or continue to evolve and spread.
About 1,500 years ago, frequent outbreaks of the world's first known plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, killed more than 25 million people and sickened many others in the Mediterranean basin with "flu-like" symptoms. The pandemic, which was called the Justinian Plague after the sixth-century Byzantine emperor Justinian I, lasted to the mid-eighth century.
Now, researchers in Germany have sequenced the genome of the Y. pestis strain that they believe caused the Justinian Plague but hasn't been seen since, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution on Tuesday.
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Every time I see a report like this I cringe.
True, it's nice to know how diseases evolve. I bet the Zuckerberg family is ecstatic.
But this kind of knowledge also can be used for dark purposes. How do we know the powers that be wouldn't use this to cull the human herd some day?