Falsely accused. Scientists suggest that rats were unfairly accused of spreading the plague

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 Falsely accused. Scientists suggest rats were wrongly accused of spreading plague

Study shows that environmental conditions in Europe would have prevented the Black Death from surviving in animal reservoirs, and we owe the spread of plague to something then another.

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The Black Death devastated Europe between 1347 and 1353, killing millions of people. However, the spread of the plague did not end there and outbreaks continued until the 19th century, writes Science Alert.

One of the most common facts about plague in Europe is that it was spread by rats – in some parts of the world, the bacterium Yersinia pestis that causes plague has been present for a long time in wild rodents and fleas, in what is called the animal “reservoir”.

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It is known that starting with rodents, the plague also sometimes spreads to humans. It is assumed that in Europe it was animal tanks that became the source of the plague pandemic. However, the researchers also speculate that the plague may have been reintroduced to Europe from Asia. A new study has shed light on the events of that time.

A group of researchers from the University of Glasgow and Steling University have done their research and suggest that the rats were unfairly slandered – environmental conditions in Europe at the time should have prevented the Black Death from surviving in long-term animal tanks, which means something else must have allowed the plague to last so long. linger in Europe.

Scientists suggest two developments in the scenario: first, the plague was re-introduced from Asian reservoirs, and second, there could be short- or medium-term reservoirs in Europe. However, the researchers believe that there could be a third scenario, in which the first two were intertwined.

In addition, scientists believe that the rapid spread of the Black Death and outbreaks over the next few centuries may indicate that slow-moving rats, in fact, did not play a decisive role in the spread of the plague.

European climatic< /h2>

To find out if plague can survive in long-term animal reservoirs in Europe, scientists have focused on studying factors such as:

  • soil characteristics;
  • climatic conditions;< /li>
  • types of terrain;
  • varieties of rodents.

Scientists suggest that it is these factors that seem to influence whether the Black Death can survive in water bodies. The researchers used comparative analysis and concluded that centuries-old reservoirs of wild rodent plague from 1348 to the early 19th century are unlikely. In fact, it is even less than it is today, when a comprehensive study excludes any such reservoirs in Europe.

However, things are very different in regions of China and the western United States, where scientists have found all the necessary conditions for stable reservoirs of plague in wild rodents. For example, scientists believe that long-term rodent reservoirs could have existed in Central Asia for thousands of years. What's more, based on ancient DNA and textual evidence, scientists believe that the plague seems to have created a short-to-medium-term reservoir, or even several, among European rodents as it traveled from Central Asia to Europe. Presumably, the most likely place for this could be Central Europe.

However, local soil and climatic conditions are not favorable for sustainable reservoirs, and therefore scientists believe that the plague had to be reimported, at least in some cases, and possibly more than once.

A radical difference< /h2>

In order to better understand the role rats played in the spread of the disease, scientists compared different outbreaks of the plague:

  • first, early 6th century — late 8th century;
  • second, 1330s – 1800s;
  • third, 1894 – still in places like Madagascar and California.

Overwhelmingly, all these pandemics are associated with the bubonic form of plague, in which the disease affects the human lymphatic system. With pneumonic plague, bacteria infect the lungs of a person.

Researchers found that the second pandemic was radically different from later ones in the nature and transmission of the disease.

Firstly, mortality rates of the second pandemic were as high as 50%, while those of the third rarely exceeded 1%.

Second, these pandemics differ in transmission speed and patterns – the transmission rate during the second pandemic was stunning compared to the third, where the speed of transporting goods is much faster.

Scientists have found that no matter how the individual waves of the second pandemic began, both wild and non-wild rodents, including rats, move much more slowly than the rate of spread of the plague across the continent was.

Thirdly, discrepancies are also noticeable in the seasonality of the plague. For example, the plague of the third pandemic correlates with the fertility cycles of rat fleas – they increase in relatively humid conditions at temperatures ranging from 10 to 25 ° C. At the same time, epidemics of the second pandemic could also occur in the winter months in a bubonic form, for example, in the Baltic regions, but in the Mediterranean climate, the plague was a summer infection.

Researchers note that these striking differences raise an important question — whether the bubonic form of the plague really depended on sedentary rodents for its transmission, when in fact it could spread more efficiently from person to person. Scientists suggest that the disease could be transmitted through touch, respiratory systems or ectoparasites, including fleas and lice.

However, scientists note that more research will be required to answer these questions, but now there is something to think about .