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Antibiotic-Resistant Strain of Bubonic Plague Discovered

September 04, 1997|From Times staff and wire reports

For the first time, scientists have found a strain of bubonic plague that is resistant to all the antibiotics normally used to treat and prevent the deadly infectious disease. The strain was found in only one person, a 16-year-old boy in Madagascar who got the plague in 1995.

But the resistant genetic material transferred easily to other strains of plague bacteria in the laboratory and could spread just as easily in nature, the researchers report in today's New England Journal of Medicine. If the plague bacterium should become widely resistant to antibiotics, public health authorities said, it could create a major infectious disease problem. The plague killed one-fourth of the European population in the 1300s.

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