Dogs as Plague Sentinels and Vectors

I've been a little obsessed with thinking about dogs and the plague lately. Dogs are often overlooked in historic plague discussions because they usually survive plague and dog-specific fleas are not associated with transmitting plague. Yet, dogs can host many of the fleas common among rodents and others that do transmit the plague including the... Continue Reading →

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Microbial Forensics of a Natural Pneumonic Plague Outbreak

For bioterrorism agents like Yersinia pestis it is necessary to identify the strain and its source specifically enough for forensic use. Categorizing an epidemic isolate and tracing its source is always important for public health measures, but the level of precision is far higher for legal uses. Developing forensic techniques to characterize and parse very... Continue Reading →

Asymptomatic Plague: Qinghai, China, 2005

Now that we know the Tibet-Qinghai plateau region is where Yersinia pestis originated and the region where subsequent pandemics arose, I think its time to look more closely at regional outbreaks and case studies. In this region, the marmot (Marmota himalayana) is the primary reservoir for Yersinia pestis. This large communal burrowing rodent is hunted by local... Continue Reading →

Japanese Use of Plague during World War II

I've been reading Sheldon Harris' Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-up. (Rev. ed, 2002), considered the definitive book on biological warfare in the Pacific theater during WWII. My primary interest is in Japanese research and use of plague in their biological warfare program.  Since this blog is, in part, a... Continue Reading →

Did India and China Escape the Black Death?

One of the few things everyone studying the plague can, I think, agree on is the importance of plague dynamics in Asia. Genetic diversity and biogeography suggest that Yersinia pestis evolved in East Central Asia (S. Russia, Mongolia, N. China) and spread along the Eurasian steppe from the Caspian Sea in Kazakstan to the Mongolia... Continue Reading →

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