Yersina pestis is a gram negative coccobacilli from the Enterobacteriaceae family. It leads to a zoonotic disease commonly referred to as the black plague; it is a disease with a long and notable history. Y. pestis is an obligate parasite that can only survive within the blood of a host. In a human host the bacteria can lead to three different types of plague: the bubonic plague, the septicemic plague, and the pneumonia plague. These three versions of the plague manifest themselves in very different manners, but it is possible for one form to lead into another. Historically a deadly and devastating disease, Y. pestis is now rare and treatable in countries such as the United States; it is, however, still endemic and very dangerous in several less economically advantaged countries.
The plague is thought to date all the way back to 1,000 BCE and is possibly referred to in the bible. Across the centuries the disease has popped up again and again. In the 6th century the plague of Justinian in the Byzantine empire has been shown to have arisen from an extinct strand of Y. pestis. The most well known occurrence of the disease was the Black Death in medieval Europe which wiped out between 30-60% of the population. Over the next several hundred years there were outbreaks of the plague and in 1894, during what is known as the Modern Pandemic, the cause of the plague was discovered by two different men. Alexandre Yersin and Shibasaburo Kitasato went to Hong Kong to investigate the plague epidemic that was occurring. Independently both men identified the bacteria but ultimately Yersin was credited with the discovery. The Modern Pandemic is ongoing and the disease can be found on every single continent aside from antarctic...
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...ed States, and laboratory staff working with Y. pestis are at an increased risk of contracting the plague. People are most likely to contract it via a flea bite, but can also be exposed through contact with contaminated fluid (during consumption or butchery), or exposure to infectious droplets respirated by and infected individual.
A case of the plague is easy to diagnose because the physical symptoms are fairly distinctive and a diagnoses can be confirmed by simply taking a sample of the patients blood, mucous, or lymph node fluid and checking for the Y. pestis bacteria under a microscope. Once diagnosed the plague is easily treaded using antibiotics. Streptomycin is the drug of choice when it comes the the plague but Chloramphenicol is also very effective against Y. pestis. There are a few other options in terms of antibiotics however they are less preferable.
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