Yersinia pestis

Authored by: Dongsheng Zhou , Ruifu Yang

Manual of Security Sensitive Microbes and Toxins

Print publication date:  April  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9781466553965
eBook ISBN: 9781466553989
Adobe ISBN:


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Plague, caused by Yersinia pestis, is one of the most devastating bacterial infections in human history. Plagues have claimed millions of lives during the three recorded pandemics. 1 Plague circulates naturally among rodent reservoirs and flea vectors in various enzootic foci. 2 Humans typically acquire plague infections via the bite of an infected flea or via direct contact with infected rodents or plague patients. Enzootic plague foci exist throughout the world, especially in Eurasia, Africa, and America. Although the occurrence of large-scale human plague epidemics is minimally probable at present, human cases of plague are reported annually. Moreover, Y. pestis can be used as a biowarfare or bioterrorism agent. 3 It was employed during warfare in the fourteenth century. The notorious Japanese Unit 731 conducted plague warfare from 1937 to 1945 in China. 4 This nefarious pathogen was classified as a category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States. 5

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