A bacterial strain was found which caused a plague epidemic in Europe in the 14th century

A group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human History Science conducted various analyses of the genomes of the remains of people who lived from the 14th to the 17th century to find out where the strain of Yersinia pestis appeared, which caused a severe and widespread plague epidemic that shook Europe in the 14th century, an epidemic nicknamed Black Death.

The epidemic killed more than 60% of Europe’s population and spread very widely from the Black Sea to Central Europe. According to historians, the first traces of the first symptoms of the disease can be found in time in 1346 and geographically in the territory connected with the Volga region in Russia.

However, it has not been possible to understand whether the pandemic was caused by a single bacterial source or was introduced into Europe from several sources, such as travelers. After a genomic analysis of 34 human remains buried in 10 different places in Europe, from Russia to France, researchers found that the first traces of the pandemic appeared in the city of Laishevo, Volga region of Russia.

The remains found in this area indicate the presence of a “generic” strain of Yersinia pestis compared to all other analyzed genomes, which differed only by a single mutation, allowing plague to spread throughout Europe.

It is not yet possible to understand whether this strain can be considered “zero” in absolute terms, since the same strain can be obtained from other regions, such as Asia.

However, once the plague had begun to spread in Europe, it was one strain that caused it to spread, and researchers believe that this was what was found in Laishevo, which then probably spread through rodents.

The researchers noted a certain lack of genetic diversity in the timing of plague spread and the low diversity of the epidemic itself after the first appearance of bacteria from Eastern Europe.

Links:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12154-0

According to a new study, blocking the hormone in immune cells can reduce the risk of heart disease

According to a new study presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) conference in Estes Park, Colorado, blocking the action of a certain hormone in human immune cells can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Researchers, as explained in the press release, in fact, found that blocking mineralocorticoid (MR) receptors, a protein involved in maintaining salt and water levels in the body and present in immune cells, can reduce the risk of pathologies such as heart attacks and strokes.

Higher levels of aldosterone, a hormone that regulates water balance, are actually associated with an increased risk of these diseases. This hormone is directly related to the mineralocorticoid receptor as it can activate or deactivate it. With age, the level of this receptor increases, which contributes to the growth of heart disease.

Researchers have experimented on mice and found that rats without MRI are characterized by lower levels of vascular inflammation and fewer plaques (fatty substances that accumulate on the walls of the arteries).

According to the researchers, these results indicate that “a reduction in plaque inflammation due to MRI blockage can improve clinical outcomes with MRI antagonists.

Therefore, mineral corticoid receptors can be an excellent therapeutic target for treating atherosclerotic diseases, heart attacks and strokes, says one of the authors of the study, Joshua Man, a researcher at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Compound found in breast milk that helps children to defeat pathogenic bacteria

A new research paper on the positive aspects of breastfeeding has been published in scientific reports. This study has shown that breast milk can help the baby to resist the infectious effects of bacteria and can contribute to the reproduction and flourishing of beneficial bacteria.

According to researchers, it is the high level of glycerol monolaurate (GML), more than 200 times higher than that found in cow’s milk, that can provide such benefits, explains Donald Lung, a professor of pediatrics and senior author of the study. This is what can be called the “perfect antibiotic”: it is a compound that, unlike antibiotics, can strongly fight bacterial infections but does not kill useful bacteria, as explained by Patrick Schlivert, professor of microbiology and immunology and the first author of the study.

GML in this sense is very selective: it only fights harmful and pathogenic bacteria and at the same time allows others, especially the intestine and body, to thrive. In addition, the same compound can reduce inflammation of epithelial cells, which are the basis of the lining of the intestine and mucous membrane. It is this inflammation that can give freedom to both bacterial and viral infections.

In order to use these properties, this compound can be produced in the laboratory and added to cow’s milk so that it can be enjoyed even by newborns who are not breastfed.

Schlivert himself talks about the big and potential benefits that such a “supplement” could bring to the health of children around the world, including because it would be relatively easy and cheap to produce the same “artificial” GML.