The Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague, may continue to affect our bodies in the present day, new research suggests. Scientists have found that people with certain genetic differences had a higher resistance to the Bubonic Plague but those same differences may negatively affect health in the present time.
The immunity gene in question, ERAP2, helped those who had it survive the Black Death by a rate of around 40%. However, it may present vulnerabilities to other ailments, such as Crohn’s Disease.
Researchers have been able to to analyse this information by extracting DNA from people who died from the Black Death and those who survived it. The bodies in question date back from 500 to 700 years ago.
By examining teeth from 206 different skeletons from around a similar time period, they were able to more precisely pinpoint whether they died before or after the time of the Black Death and identify any key differences.
Due to the rapid spread of Black Death killing off those who were vulnerable to it, it made people with the ERAP2 gene much more common as a result. People with ERAP2 naturally produced proteins that were more effective at combating the Black Death than those who did not, according to the research.
Black Death is caused by the bacterium known as Yersinia pestis, more commonly known as Y. pestis. It is not an extinct pathogen, with an outbreak occurring in Madagascar as recently as 2017.
The Black Death is estimated to have wiped out around 50% of Europe’s population during its circulation. Worldwide, a precise death toll has never been confirmed, but it is thought to be around 75 million to 200 million.