Sunday, July 26, 2020

Put that back where you found it. Right now.

"Scientists and archaeologists now believe, however, that the plague bacteria, which caused the medieval Black Death that killed up to half of Europe’s population, infected humans roughly 5,000 years ago in the Stone Age. The bacteria, after it had entered the bloodstream and likely killed the host, circulated into the pulp chamber of teeth, which kept its DNA insulated from millennia of environmental wear and tear. In the past decade, scientists have been able to extract and analyze that DNA.

The Stone Age plague was, however, an ancestor with a slightly different genetic identity. Tracking how those differences evolve helps infectious-disease biologists better understand what causes disease and how to prepare for current outbreaks. The plague bacteria in the Stone Age, for example, lacked the genes necessary to jump from fleas to humans, which likely spread the Black Death widely. Without the flea gene, the disease probably used another animal transmitter that came into contact with humans. In 2018, a University of Copenhagen team published the first evidence, based on early data three years before, that the ancient plague bacteria, found in a Swedish settlement, had the power to kill and may have threatened life in the age’s “mega-settlements” that could spread diseases quickly.

“It probably was the first pandemic,” said Simon Rasmussen, a genomicist at the university and lead researcher on the plague study. In the Stone Age, also called the Neolithic period, humans made unprecedented moves to gather in large settlements with up to 10,000 people in close quarters with animals and virtually no sanitation. “It’s the textbook place of where you could have a new pathogen,” he said.
Long story short, scientists wondering what could have wiped out some of the earliest large settlements of modern humans are digging up the skulls of neolithic humans to extract the DNA of the ancestor to the bubonic plague that killed them from the inside of their teeth and...Jesus wept, is never having seen a single horror movie a prerequisite for this job?

This reads like the plot of a self-published Crichton-Lovecraft fanfic mashup!