Eyespy: November 2011
Bringing you the quirkiest medical stories from around the world
Black Death—The genome of the bacteria responsible for the Black Death has been reconstructed and found to be a close ancestor of strains of Yersinia pestis, a Gram negative bacterium, which circulate today. DNA was recovered by drilling into teeth of skeletons found in a plague burial site in London. The massive impact of the mediaeval strain on the bubonic plague, which killed an estimated 30 million people in the mid 14th century, had been partially attributed to it being a highly virulent bacterial strain. This research indicates that it had similar levels of virulence to current strains, and that its devastating effects were instead caused by poor environmental conditions, high susceptibility in the mediaeval community, and bacterial spread via fleas. (Nature 2011, doi:10.1038/nature10549).
Climate control—If you’re on shift in the emergency department on a sunny day or chilly night—beware. A cross sectional study of 21 emergency departments across the