SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Human ectoparasites and the spread of plague in Europe during the Second Pandemic

OPEN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | 18 Jan 2018

KR Dean, F Krauer, L Walløe, OC Lingjærde, B Bramanti, NC Stenseth and BV Schmid
Abstract
Plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, can spread through human populations by multiple transmission pathways. Today, most human plague cases are bubonic, caused by spillover of infected fleas from rodent epizootics, or pneumonic, caused by inhalation of infectious droplets. However, little is known about the historical spread of plague in Europe during the Second Pandemic (14-19th centuries), including the Black Death, which led to high mortality and recurrent epidemics for hundreds of years. Several studies have suggested that human ectoparasite vectors, such as human fleas (Pulex irritans) or body lice (Pediculus humanus humanus), caused the rapidly spreading epidemics. Here, we describe a compartmental model for plague transmission by a human ectoparasite vector. Using Bayesian inference, we found that this model fits mortality curves from nine outbreaks in Europe better than models for pneumonic or rodent transmission. Our results support that human ectoparasites were primary vectors for plague during the Second Pandemic, including the Black Death (1346-1353), ultimately challenging the assumption that plague in Europe was predominantly spread by rats.
Tweets*
237
Facebook likes*
11
Reddit*
1
News coverage*
42
Blogs*
5
SC clicks
0
Concepts
Infectious disease, Head louse, Pandemic, Plague, World population, Bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis, Black Death
MeSH headings
-
comments powered by Disqus

* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com