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Seifert, Lisa; Wiechmann, Ingrid; Harbeck, Michaela; Thomas, Astrid; Grupe, Gisela; Projahn, Michaela; Scholz, Holger C.; Riehm, Julia M. (2016): Genotyping Yersinia pestis in Historical Plague: Evidence for Long-Term Persistence of Y-pestis in Europe from the 14th to the 17th Century.
In: PLOS ONE 11(1), e0145194


Ancient DNA (aDNA) recovered from plague victims of the second plague pandemic (14th to 17th century), excavated from two different burial sites in Germany, and spanning a time period of more than 300 years, was characterized using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis. Of 30 tested skeletons 8 were positive for Yersinia pestis-specific nucleic acid, as determined by qPCR targeting the pla gene. In one individual (MP-19-II), the pla copy number in DNA extracted from tooth pulp was as high as 700 gene copies/mu l, indicating severe generalized infection. All positive individuals were identical in all 16 SNP positions, separating phylogenetic branches within nodes N07_N10 (14 SNPs), N07_N08 (SNP s19) and N06_N07 (s545), and were highly similar to previously investigated plague victims from other European countries. Thus, beside the assumed continuous reintroduction of Y. pestis from central Asia in multiple waves during the second pandemic, long-term persistence of Y. pestis in Europe in a yet unknown reservoir host has also to be considered.