Yersinia pestis infections have had a long history with humans, with earliest confirmed cases dating back as far as the Bronze Age. The mid-14th century Black Death is the most famous of these outbreaks, claiming anywhere from 30 to 50% of the European population in only five short years.
Evidence is accumulating that reveals the presence of extinct daughter populations of the Black Death in Europe as the cause of subsequent epidemics until the mid 18th century. In addition, it has recently been suggested that one of these daughter populations traveled east, settled in Southeast Asia, and gave rise to modern plague lineages that have a near worldwide distribution. Genomic data from post Black Death outbreaks are essential to determine the paths traveled by the pathogen after the Black Death, and to determine the potential sources for European epidemics that persisted until the Early Modern Era.
Here we present Y. pestis genomes from 14th century Tatarstan, Russia and 16th century Ellwangen, Germany. Together these genomes reveal important steps along the path traveled by the Black Death, and support the notion of an extinct European reservoir of plague that persisted for several centuries.