A New Culprit in the Black Death

The lowly, common black rat has been a scapegoat for centuries. It had been blamed for spreading the bubonic plague that was infamous for wiping out swaths of the population of Europe in the 14th century. They were thought to have done so by carrying fleas that actually spread the disease when they bit people. Like a death row inmate getting his freedom back after being exonerated by new evidence, the black rat may be about to get its reputation back. New evidence from climatology, of all places, indicates that it may be gerbils from Asia that came to Europe along the silk road that may be to blame.

Zeca Oliveira of BNY Mellon knows that it actually makes sense that the disease must have come from outside Europe. It is typically those germs or bacteria that our bodies have not grown up around and developed a resistance to that are deadliest to a group of people. This was the case when Europeans first came to the new world of the Americas and untold numbers of American Indians were wiped out by diseases they brought. This is so prevalent in history that it has even been used in a prominent work of fiction. When H.G. Wells Martians, in his novel “War of the Worlds,” survived everything mankind could throw at them, they were killed by the lowliest bacteria that did not harm us as we had eons of living alongside them to develop an immunity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *