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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Trench Fever: An Ancient Zoonosis

Trench fever is an ancient disease with a surprisingly short history. Named after its discovery in the trenches of World War I, its case history is only about a century old. Yet, the louse transmitted Bartonella quintana that causes trench fever has been found in human remains as old as 4000 years and is one... 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 →

Fleshing out Yersinia pestis

by Michelle Ziegler Up until a few months ago there were a few representative samples of the Yersinia pestis genome. Important windows into its secrets, but windows none the less. In January a Chinese group remedied this situation by expanding the number of fully sequenced genomes from 15 to 133 (Cui et al, 2013).  China... Continue Reading →

The Great Pneumonic Plague of 1910-1911

The Great Manchurian Plague of 1910-1911: Geopolitics of an Epidemic Disease by William C. Summers Yale U Press, 2012 Manchuria was a political mess at the turn of the 20th century. Although it was the homeland of the Qing dynasty, the Chinese considered it a backwater. Japan and Russia on the other hand saw it... 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 →

Generating Immunity to the Plague

Its pretty amazing that we still don't have a vaccine against the plague. Work still goes on and it hasn't been easy by any means, but it really isn't a priority that you hear about much. Vaccines developed to date have issues with side effects and the need for repeat immunizations to be protective against... 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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