Study Links Gerbils to Bubonic Plague


A new study may finally exonerate rats from bringing the bubonic plague to Medieval Europe. Instead, researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway have implicated a more beloved rodent: the gerbil. Study co-author Nils Christian Stenseth says that if rats brought the plague to Europe and they’re still in Europe, then the plague should still be found in European cities — but it isn’t. "What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe," Stenseth says. They theorize that fleas carrying the plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who brought it to European cities. Still, experts say you don’t need to be concerned about domestic gerbils. "If you get your gerbil at a pet store... you have nothing to worry about," said Ken Gage of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. — Read it at NPR


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