14.06.13 - Why was there a sudden drop in the incidence of leprosy at the end of the Middle Ages? To answer this question, biologists and archeologists reconstructed the genome of medieval strains of the pathogen responsible for the disease, which they exhumed from centuries old human graves. Their results, published in the journal "Science", shed light on this obscure historical period and introduce new methods for understanding epidemics.
In Medieval Europe, leprosy was a common disease. The specter of the leper remains firmly entrenched in our collective memory: a person wrapped in homespun cloth, announcing his presence in the streets by ringing a bell. The image is not unfounded. In certain areas it is estimated that nearly one in 30 people were infected with the disease.
Natural selection in action