Scientists used the degraded strands to reconstruct the entire genetic code of the deadly bacterium. It is the first time experts have succeeded in drafting the genome of an ancient pathogen, or disease-causing agent.

The researchers found that a specific strain of the plague bug Yersinia pestis caused the pandemic that killed 100 million Europeans - between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of the total population - in just five years between 1347 and 1351.

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