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Invalidation of early-phase transmission as an epizootic and epidemiological theory

Dear colleagues,

New plague research has just been published with particular importance for the discussion of the early-phase transmission and transmission by proventricular blockage. B.J. Hinnebusch, Senior Investigator at the Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens, NIH, NIAID, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, has long been one of the sharpest critics of the early-phase theory of transmission, see, for instance, his article “Biofilm-Dependent and Bio-Film-Independent Mechanisms of using Transmission of Yersinia pestis by Fleas”, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 954; 2012:  237‒243. In these days, he publishes with co-authors an evidently crucial article on this topic: Hinnebusch, B.J. Bland, D.M., Bosio, C.F., Jarrett, C.O., “Comparative Ability of Oropsylla montana and Xenopylla cheopis Fleas to transmitt Yersinia pestis by two Different Mechanisms” PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases | DOI: 10…1371/journal.pntd.0005276 January 12, 2017: 1-15.

They used fleas of Oropsylla montana provided by two of the central advocates of the early-phase theory, which excludes that different strains of this flea could affect the outcome. The conventional vector of plague ‘par excellence’, Xenopsylla cheopis, was used for comparison. Contrary to earlier assertions by the advocates of the early-phase theory that Oropsylla montana rarely develop proventricular blockage, it was shown to block earlier and surviving longer after becoming blocked than X. Cheopis, and that transmission by blockage was as good as or better than observed for X. cheopis. This (re)confirmed earlier research on the vector capacity of this species of flea (see, e.g., the fully referenced comments in my monograph The Black Death and Later Plague Epidemic in the Scandinavian Countries, 2016: 377, 403, 630, 658).

In this article, the early-phase theory is dismantled as an important or significant means or mechanism of transmission of plague. In a personal communication by email of 01.03.17, Hinnebusch states that “In fact, I think early-phase transmission only has a role in very special circumstances, such as during an epizootic of plague in a dense [rodent] population that is both highly susceptible (LD50< 10) and that routinely develops very high bacteremia levels (>108 to 109 Y. pestis/ml) before death.  High flea density is also a likely precondition, as intermittent challenges from just a few fleas at a time would frequently lead to resistance rather than productive, transmissible disease (bacteremia).”

This also means that early-phase transmission is of no significance in plague epidemics, except perhaps, at the individual level, the occasional transmission of immunity-inducing tiny doses of plague bacteria (that will be easily dealt with by the human immune apparatus). It will also become clear that Hinnebusch et al. corroborate and deepen earlier plague research: it is pointed out that this type of early-phase transmission was identified by the Indian Plague Research Commission (IPRC) in 1907 and that the pioneering studies of Bacot of the IPRC on blockage in fleas IPRC 1914 and 1915, are still tenable and relevant. The bibliography contains studies from the entire 1900s, not least 1940s, which have kept their value as fine research.

Finally, I will point out that my recently published monograph contains a long study of early-phase transmission in Chapter 12: 625-655 (with bibliographic references included in the General Bibliography). Its conclusions and basic analysis agree with this recent study by Hinnebusch et al.

Kind regards,

Ole J. Benedictow,

Emeritus Professor

EAA Vilnius 2016: Session report on “Plague in diachronic and interdisciplinary perspective”

The following session report by Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), Sacha Kacki (Université de Bordeaux, France), Marcel Keller (MPI-SHH Jena, Germany) and Christina Lee (University of Nottingham, UK) will be published in The European Archaeologist. With kind permission of the EAA.

Edit 17-02-07: filmed talks are now linked under the respective name.

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Plague, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, occurred in at least three major historical pandemics: the Justinianic Plague (6th to 8th century), the Black Death (1348-1352, with further epidemic outbreaks until the 18th century), and the Modern or Hong Kong Plague (19th to 20th century). However, it appears that the disease may be much older: DNA from Bronze Age human skeleton has recently shown that plague first emerged at least as early as 3000 BC. As any disease, plague has both a biological as well as a social dimension. Different disciplines can therefore explicate different aspects of plague which can lead to a better understanding of the disease and its medical and social implications.

The session was held on 2nd September 2016 as part of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the EAA with the aim of bringing together researchers from different disciplines who work on plague. It addressed a series of research questions, such as:

  • Which disciplines can contribute to the research on plague?
  • What are their methodological possibilities and the limitations of their methodologies?
  • How can different disciplines work together in order to gain a more realistic and detailed picture of plague in different periods and regions?
  • How did different societies react to plague? In which way may we prove or disprove evidence for such reactions – and which disciplines may contribute to the debate?
  • What where the common aspects, and what the differences of the various plague outbreaks? Are there any epidemiological characteristics that are essential and/or unique to plague?
  • What are possible implications of the pandemic spread and endemic occurrence of plague through the ages for the interpretation of historical and cultural phenomena?

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EAA Vilnius 2016: Plague in diachronic and interdisciplinary perspective – CfP

Call for Paper for the Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologist in Vilnius 31.8.-4.9.2016

http://eaavilnius2016.lt/

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Plague, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, occurred in at least three major historical pandemics: the Justinianic Plague (6th to 8th century), the Black Death (from 14th century onwards), and the modern or Hong Kong Plague (19th to 20th century).Yet DNA from bronze age human skeleton has recently shown that the plague first emerged at least as early as 3000 BC. Plague is, as any disease, both a biological as well as a social entity. Different disciplines can therefore elucidate different aspects of the plague, which can lead to a better understanding of this disease and its medical and social implications.

The session shall address questions like

  • Which disciplines can contribute to the research on the plague? What are their methodological possibilities and limitations?
  • How can they work together in order to come to a more realistic and detailed picture of the
    plague in different times and regions?
  • Which ways had societies to react to the plague? How can they be studied or proved?
  • Which commons and differences can be seen between the Justinianic Plague and later plague epidemics? Are there epidemiological characteristics that are essential and/or unique to plague?
  • What are possible implications of the pandemic spread and endemic occurrence of plague
    through the ages for the interpretation of historical and cultural phenomena?

We would like to invite researchers from the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, biology, history, medicine and related subjects to present papers in our session.

Abstract nr. TH5-05
Presentation Preference – Regular session (half day)

Author – Gutsmiedl-Schümann, Doris, Universität Bonn, Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche  Archäologie, Bonn, Germany (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Kacki, Sacha, Anthropologie des Populations Passées et Présentes, Université de Bordeaux, Pessac, France
Co-author(s) – Keller, Marcel, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena,
Germany
Co-author(s) – Lee, Christina, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Topic – Science and Interdisciplinarity in Archaeology

Keywords: diachronic perspective, Plague

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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A Conference at Rome: CfP “The Crisis of the 14th Century”

http://climatehistorynetwork.com/2015/05/14/cfp-workshop-the-crisis-of-the-14th-century-teleconnections-between-environmental-and-societal-change/

in February 2016 at the German Historical institute at Rome.

Conference Summary: The first half of the 14th century, the transition from the so-called Medieval Climate Anomaly to the so-called Little Ice Age, is one of the few climatic events indicated about equally well in written and physical source.  The ‘crisis of the 14th century’ has also become an established interpretation for certain developments and problems of late medieval Europe. However, such an interpretation has been criticized by some as a contemporary projection of the crisis-ridden 20th and 21st centuries onto the past.

The conference will focus on the imputed climatic deterioration of the 1300s and its presumed impact on medieval economy, society, environment, and culture.   The organizers are calling for proposals for 30-minute presentations. The conference language will be English. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a short CV, by 30 June 2015 to both Gerrit J. Schenk (Darmstadt University of Technology) at schenk@pg.tu-darmstadt.de and Martin Bauch (German Historical Institute Rome) at bauch@dhi-roma.it  Accommodation during the conference and travel expenses will be covered.

more details.

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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Current debates about sustainability – and the 14th century crisis

The German Leibniz-Gemeinschaft and theFederal Ministry of Education and Research initiated a program of public discussion on sustainability at various research museums (humans culture sustainability). The 4th and last of the Museumsgespräche 2012 “Mensch Kultur Nachhaltigkeit” at the RGZM in Mainz is dedicated to the handling of soil and water in past and present.

Discutants are Prof. Dr. Hans-Rudolf Bork (Kiel unisversity), Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Frede (Gießen university) and myself; moderation by Axel Weiß (SWR). On November, 27.th 2012 at 19PM there will be a livestream at http://www.zukunftsprojekt-erde.de/mitmachen/museum-digital/museumsgespraeche-2012-mensch-kultur-nachhaltigkeit/museumsgespraeche-2012-livestream.html. Discussion however will be in German.

The 14th century will probably one topic among others as it seems to be a very interestig case study for sustainability assessment.

Links

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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Remapping the Black Death in the Age of Genomics and GIS

127th annual meeting of the American Historical Association, January 2013 at New Orleans

http://aha.confex.com/aha/2013/webprogram/Session7774.html with abstracts of the papers

http://contagions.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/aha-2013-the-power-of-cartography-remapping-the-black-death-in-the-age-of-genomics-and-gis/

Remapping the Black Death in the Age of Genomics and GIS will be an important topic, as many maps showing the spread of the Black Death still use 19th c.’s data collection, which often do not refer to the sources properly. And in many cases they just seem to use evidence of pogroms as a real evidence for the Black Death.

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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Invitation to the Black Death Network

Dear colleagues,

The blog “The Black Death Network. Interdiscplinary approaches to the 14th-century crises in Europe ” just started. This is an initiative arising from a session at the EAA European Association of Archaeologists)/  MERC (medieval Europe research Congress) meeting in Helsinki 2012.
If you are engaged in research connected to the 14th-century crises across Europe we would be very happy for you to join out network. Our aim is to connect students and experienced scholars from all disciplines, to exchange news and ideas and to discuss all aspects of the topic.

We will give all colleagues author rights to write and comment. Please write an email to schregATrgzm.de or some other member of the editorial team. However, we ask you for a introductory blogpost presenting your yourself and your interests in the topic. We sort these posts in a category “researchers” which will create an overview of all persons actively involved. You may post short information about your research, new publications, news on relevant conferences.

The blog is hosted at hypotheses.org/ openedition, a common platform for academic blogs organised by the German Historical Institute at Paris, the French National Library. They will provide a ISSN similar to a journal and will also take care for archiving of the blog. Blog-Posts are therefore a litte bit more official than in private blogs, and therefore can also be cited. We put the texts of the blog under a CC-licence (BY NC SA).

You can follow the blog by rss-feed or by joining the facebook-group “The Black Death Network”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/340262089399227/. New posts from the blog are connected with this fb-group by an rss-feed.

There is also a group The Black Death Network at zotero collecting bibliographical data of research publications as well as more popular articles.

Rainer Schreg
Richard Thomas
Kerstin Pasda
Cclare Downham

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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