Recently-emerged data reveals a surprising fact about the Black Death, the epidemic which killed approximately 50 million people in the 14th century. While many historians and medical scientists believed that rats were the primary cause of plague throughout Europe, the new study reveals that this may not be the case.
Black Death Spread by Humans, Study Claims
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, this study brought together scientists from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara. Acting on the assumption that rats were the primary spreading vector of the Yersinia pestis bacterium, the scientists reconstructed a contagion dissemination computer model.
For comparison, the team of scientists used human and airborne transmission vectors. After running the numbers, to their bewilderment, the researchers discovered that the rats-based rate of spreading was not consistent with the historical records.
Subsequently, the airborne model returned the same results as the rodent-based on. After analyzing the data on human transmission, the scientists realized that the rate of spread was consistent with the facts.
Further research revealed that the real perpetrators behind the Black Death were not the rats but the ectoparasites found on the human body. The scientists discovered that human fleas and lice were more likely to carry around and disseminate the Yersinia pestis bacterium compared to rats.
One of the scientists declared that:
While it is commonly assumed that rats and their fleas spread plague during the Second Pandemic, there is little historical and archaeological support for such a claim.
Even though the newly-discovered Black Death data might be more consistent with what we know so far about the contagion, there are still many questions left unanswered. However, in time, maybe all the little dents lefts behind by the deadliest epidemic the world has experience will be filled.
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