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Volume 24, Number 1—January 2018
Etymologia

Etymologia: Plague

Ronnie HenryComments to Author 

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Plague [plāg]

Figure 1

Thumbnail of Digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic image of a flea. Fleas are known to carry a number of diseases that are transferable to humans through their bites, including plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Photo: CDC, Janice Haney Carr.

Figure 1. Digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic image of a flea. Fleas are known to carry a number of diseases that are transferable to humans through their bites, including plague, caused by the...

Figure 2

Thumbnail of Plague warning signs posted in regions where plague has been discovered. In remote areas with little human habitation, the most appropriate action may be to post signs on the roads entering the epizootic area to warn people, and provide information on personal protection and plague prevention. Photo, CDC, 1993.

Figure 2. Plague warning signs posted in regions where plague has been discovered. In remote areas with little human habitation, the most appropriate action may be to post signs on the roads entering...

Plague (from the Latin plaga, “stroke” or “wound”) infections are believed to have been common since at least 3000 bce. Plague is caused by the ancestor of current Yersinia (named for Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin, who first isolated the bacterium) pestis strains (Figure 1). However, this ancestral Y. pestis lacked the critical Yersinia murine toxin (ymt) gene that enables vectorborne transmission. After acquiring this gene (sometime during 1600–950 bce), which encodes a phospholipase D that protects the bacterium inside the flea gut, Y. pestis evolved the ability to cause pandemics of bubonic plague. The first recoded of these, the Justinian Plague, began in 541 ace and eventually killed more than 25 million persons (Figure 2).

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References

  1. Alexandre Yersin  BW. Etymologia: yersinia. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010;16:496. DOIPubMed
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. History of plague [cited 2017 Oct 19]. https://www.cdc.gov/plague/history/index.html.
  3. Rasmussen  S, Allentoft  ME, Nielsen  K, Orlando  L, Sikora  M, Sjögren  K-G, et al. Early divergent strains of Yersinia pestis in Eurasia 5,000 years ago. Cell. 2015;163:57182. DOIPubMed

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Figures

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2401.et2401

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Table of Contents – Volume 24, Number 1—January 2018

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Ronnie Henry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Mailstop E03, Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA

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Page created: December 19, 2017
Page updated: December 19, 2017
Page reviewed: December 19, 2017
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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