Pandemics of bubonic plague have occurred in Eurasia since the sixth century ad. Climatic variations in Central Asia affect the population size and activity of the plague bacterium’s reservoir rodent species, influencing the probability of human infection. Using innovative time-series analysis of surrogate climate records spanning 1,500 years, a study in BMC Biology concludes that climatic fluctuations may have influenced these pandemics. This has potential implications for health risks from future climate change. Today’s diverse populations within the vast Eurasian continent, whether east, west, central or south, retain a horror of ‘the plague ’- as dreadful an agent of gruesome death as Ebola virus and yellow fever. Over the past two millennia, several pandemics of bubonic plague, caused by the flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis, have occurred within Eurasia, spreading quickly and often then lingering. Using a stepped approach to a set of long historical time-series data, including climatic, pandemic, epidemic and social-political variables, a study by Kausrud and colleagues  published in BMC Biology concludes that naturally occurring climatic fluctuations, acting through their environmental, ecological and political impacts, may have influenced the human pandemic outbreaks. Descriptions and theories about the occurrence of bubonic plague, particularly the Black Death (estimated to have killed one-third to one-half of Western Europe’s population), have engrossed many medical historians. In particular, the two great, recognized historical pandemics of bubonic plague have spawned various controversies
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