Report: Plague hit much earlier than previously thought

Report: Plague Hit Much Earlier Than Previously Thought
Report: Plague Hit Much Earlier Than Previously Thought

Humans have been sick and tired for a long, long time.

A new scientific report suggests that the plague has been infecting humans for about twice as long as previously thought.

Scientists say bacteria called Yersinia pestis was first thought to have struck during what's called the Plague of Justinian in the Eastern Roman Empire — AKA the Byzantine Empire — around 540 AD.

But it turns out — the plague was taking down people thousands of years before that, around the time of the Bronze Age which was about 5,000 years ago.

Scientists analyzed ancient DNA extracted from the teeth of 101 adults from the Bronze Age and found the bacteria in seven individuals — the oldest of whom died more than 5,700 years ago.

The report also highlights that the plague originally spread by human-to-human contact, not fleas to rats and other rodents.

It's unclear what those outbreaks were like, but scientists believe that the plague epidemics helped closed the doors on a number of populations and helped others take their place.

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Originally published