The genome of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the plague or "Black Death," has been sequenced by a team of scientists at the UK-based Sanger Centre with funding from the Wellcome Trust. Completion of the Yersinia pestis sequencing will hopefully allow researchers to develop more drugs to combat the disease that is still prevalent in some parts of the world and can cause death after just 1-2 days incubation. The plague, which has struck with epidemic proportions several times in history, is believed to have wiped out one-third of the European population during the fourteenth century, and today up to 3,000 cases are reported annually to the World Health Organization (WHO). From the genome, the biologists have been able to identify many of the genes that underlie the bacterium's complex life cycle and its ability to infect different species such as rats, fleas, and people.
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