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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 10;6(3):e16735. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016735.

High throughput, multiplexed pathogen detection authenticates plague waves in medieval Venice, Italy.

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  • 1Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes, UMR CNRS 6236 IRD 198, IFR48, Faculté de Médecine, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France.



Historical records suggest that multiple burial sites from the 14th-16th centuries in Venice, Italy, were used during the Black Death and subsequent plague epidemics.


High throughput, multiplexed real-time PCR detected DNA of seven highly transmissible pathogens in 173 dental pulp specimens collected from 46 graves. Bartonella quintana DNA was identified in five (2.9%) samples, including three from the 16th century and two from the 15th century, and Yersinia pestis DNA was detected in three (1.7%) samples, including two from the 14th century and one from the 16th century. Partial glpD gene sequencing indicated that the detected Y. pestis was the Orientalis biotype.


These data document for the first time successive plague epidemics in the medieval European city where quarantine was first instituted in the 14th century.

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