Asian Journal of Paleopathology Vol.5, 21–29, 2023
Received: December 31, 2022
Accepted: January 31, 2023
DOI: 10.32247/ajp2023.5.3


In search of earliest records of endemic plague: Past research and new endeavors

Mark Simon, Quanchao Zhang, Martin Sikora, Hugh Willmott, Sharon DeWitte, Qian Wang

   Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for at least three plague pandemics in the past, persists in natural animal reservoirs around the globe and has potential to evolve rapidly, hence is still a threat to modern populations. Pandemics such as plague and ongoing COVID-19 can dramatically alter and shape human demography, biology, and socio-cultural practices. Through the synthesis of biomolecular analyses with bioarchaeological data, researchers have begun to uncover the effects of past plague epidemics on modem populations and are also searching for the origins of the Y. pestis bacterium. We review recent endeavors in studying the ecology of Y pestis and tracing its history. Understanding the origins, behaviors, and consequences of diseases with epidemic potential in the past can contribute to ongoing discourse in public health, social policy, economy, and biology, as well as inspire positive changes in living populations.

Key words
Pandemics, epidemics, prehistory, paleoepidemiology