My philosphy

My philosphy

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Bubonic Plague

Being home-schooled since 4th grade, I was able to really study and learn the subjects that fascinated me and get graded on it. My *favorite* subject was The Bubonic Plague. Whenever I was able to do a project about this disease, I did. History, Biology, Microbiology, yea...The Bubonic Plague! Yersina pestis is the causative agent and this disease is still present today. I am a little slow when it comes to current events, and reading some e-mails, so when I was cleaning out my inbox today, I came across this article, with a link to another recent case.

Most recently (last Fall), during microbiology, we had to present a power point presentation about an emerging disease. I asked the instructor if I could present Y. pestis, only because I am still so enamored by it. Thankfully she appreciated my nerdyness and allowed it. I received full marks on the project, and enjoyed presenting yet another project on my favorite epidemic of all times. Yes, it's my favorite. I fly my nerd flag proudly!
Think about it, this bacteria infects a specific species of flea (the rat flea) which has an entry valve to the stomach that allows for full gastric distention after a blood meal, and doesn’t allow regurgitation stomach contents at next feeding. A blood meal containing Y. pestis, allows for multiplication of the bacteria in the stomach, which then form a ball of microbes & blood. This inactivates the stomach valve, so at each feeding the flea regurgitates the bacteria.  At least 25,000 bacteria are regurgitated, and the flea, frustrated and hungry, finds a new host to feed on and starts the cycle again. The flea will literally starve to death.
·         In human blood, Y. pestis does not reach high enough concentrations to cause a gastric block in the flea’s stomach, so it is not spread from person to person via the flea.

I am amazed at how bacteria and viruses can evolve to better infect a host. I also think it's pretty nifty that there is now an antibiotic out to specifically treat the plague. 

Oh diseases and zoonoses, how I love thee.


  1. I forgot about this article that has been in an open tab on my web browser for the past week, I finally read it about 10 minutes ago!

  2. Fun to hear that you were home-schooled! I was also for a few years when I was young, and my wife went all the way through high school. It definitely makes for some more unique opportunities and experiences than traditional schooling. Of course I love hearing about the plague also...