FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (CBS Las Vegas) – Experts say they have recently learned that new deadly plagues could affect humans in the future, due to the relationship between old strains of infectious disease and presently existing ones.

The team involved in the study – based at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney – made the discovery after a breakthrough allowed them to learn more about the pathogen that caused both the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death, according to a university press release.

“The findings suggest new plagues could emerge in humans in the future,” the release states.

The reported reason for the team’s alarming assertions regarding future danger for humans came from extracting the oldest known pathogen genome and comparing it to the genomes of over 100 contemporary strains.

Other experts, including associate professor Dave Wagner of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at Northern Arizona University, said that human resistance could prevent such outbreaks later on down the road.

“We know the bacterium Y. pestis has jumped from rodents into humans throughout history, and rodent reservoirs of plague still exist today in many parts of the world,” he said. “Fortunately we now have antibiotics that could be used to effectively treat plague, which lessens the chances of another large-scale human pandemic.”

Study co-author and professor Edward Holmes also noted the benefits of human evolution against disease.

He said, “This study raises intriguing questions about why a pathogen that was both so successful and so deadly died out. One testable possibility is that human populations evolved to become less susceptible.”

The study was published in the journal Lancet Infectious Disease.


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