Scientists have finally cracked what caused the Great Plague of London back in 1665, thanks to a recent discovery by construction workers.
A mass grave was unearthed during the construction of a new Crossrail station at Liverpool Street in East London, and 20 skeletons were excavated from their graves, The Independent reports.
Scientists examined the DNA of the skeletons and discovered yersina pestis, the bacteria responsible for the 1348 Black Death epidemic and the 1855 bubonic plague outbreak in China.
While this may not sound super exciting, it’s actually a major discovery and is the first time plague DNA from 17th century Britain has been identified.
Don Walker, Senior Human Osteologist at the Museum of London Archaeology, explained that the discovery will improve our understanding of the disease historically.
It’s significant because we had this famous, severe outbreak of plague in 1665, but until very recently, there was quite a lot of doubt about what had caused it.
Four or five years back, [scientists] studied some skeletons from the Black Death, which was the first outbreak of plague in Britain.
They identified what had caused the black death in the middle of the 14th century was yersina pestis, the plague bacterium, but they weren’t sure what caused later outbreaks of the plague. It appears now that it was the same bacterium, that lasted throughout those centuries.
Here's a sneak peek at a skeleton which is confirmed to have the bacteria responsible for the Great Plague of 1665. pic.twitter.com/snS3KUR7gG
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) September 8, 2016
Studying DNA from plague victims is the only way scientists have of getting the vital information needed to better understand the disease.
The Great Plague wiped out 2.5 per cent of England forcing locals to bury their dead in hidden mass graves.
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