Recent reports have highlighted a bubonic plague outbreak in Mongolia. Mention the word “plague” and everyone automatically thinks of the Black Death. The 14th century outbreak killed millions of people across Europe.
It has now been reported by the BBC that a single individual in Mongolia has been identified as being infected with the bubonic plague bacterium Yersinia pestis. Chinese health authorities have quarantined the individual. A bubonic plague outbreak can be deadly. But, thanks to modern medicine, it is also easily treated with antibiotics.
However, there have been sporadic reports of the plague bacterium becoming resistant to all the antibiotics. This renders commonly used treatments unusable.
Professor Colin Garner, Chief Executive of Antibiotic Research UK commented ‘whilst the risk to the general population of catching bubonic plague is infinitesimally small (1 in 3 million) we should always be on our guard in case a particularly virulent form of the bacterium develops. Treating bubonic plague relies on effective and working antibiotics. We don’t want to squander this precious resource for non-trivial infections which get better on their own!’