Yersinia pestis is the causative agent of the systemic invasive infectious disease often referred to as the plague. The Y. pestis is an extremely virulent pathogen that is likely to cause severe illness and death upon infection unless antibiotics are administered. In the past, Y. pestis has caused devastating epidemics during three periods of modern history; the Justinian Plague spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean during the 6th-8th centuries AD and killed approximately 25% of the population below the Alps region. Perhaps the most famous incidence of any disease was the devastating Black Plague of 8th-14th century Europe that eradicated 25 million people (nearly 25% of the population) and marked the end of the Dark Ages. The third endemic began in 1855 in China and was responsible for millions of deaths.
Plague is a very serious illness, but is treatable with commonly available antibiotics. The earlier a patient seeks medical care and receives treatment that is appropriate for plague, the better their chances are of a full recovery.
Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative bacillus member of the Enterobacteriaceae family, and is an obligate intracellular pathogen that must be contained within the blood to survive. It is also a fermentative, motile organism that produces a thick anti-phagocytic slime layer in its path.
Key characteristics: Gram(-), catalase(+), oxidase(-), indole(-), urease(-)