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Microbes Infect. 2006 Jan;8(1):273-84. Epub 2005 Aug 10.

Molecular and physiological insights into plague transmission, virulence and etiology.

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  • 1State Key laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity, National Center for Biomedical Analysis, Army Center for Microbial Detection and Research, Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS), Beijing 100071, China.


Plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, which evolved from the enteric pathogen Y. pseudotuberculosis, which normally causes a chronic and relatively mild disease. Y. pestis is not only able to parasitize the flea but also highly virulent to rodents and humans, causing epidemics of a systemic and often fatal disease. Y. pestis could be used as a bio-weapon and for bio-terrorism. It uses a number of strategies that allow the pathogen to change its lifestyle rapidly to survive in fleas and to grow in the mammalian hosts. Extensive studies reviewed here give an overall picture of the determinants responsible for plague pathogenesis in mammalians and the transmission by fleas. The availability of multiple genomic sequences and more extensive use of genomics and proteomics technologies should allow a comprehensive dissection of the complex of host-adaptation and virulence in Y. pestis.

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