Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
Many people view the Black Death as an event so distant that it has no relevance today. However, in the brief first chapter of In the Wake of the Plague, Norman E. Cantor relates the disasters associated with the Black Death to current worries about bioterrorism and Russian germ warfare capabilities.
In his second chapter, Cantor discusses the clinical signs of bubonic plague, how it was spread, and the hypothesis that unrecognized cases of anthrax may have also played a part in the devastation of the 1300s. He notes, "Frequent bathing was proscribed as dangerous by the medical profession: You opened your pores to the airborne disease." Basing his opinion on research done by Steven J. O'Brien and colleagues, Cantor notes that the plague may have resulted in a mutation conferring resistance to HIV: "If you are descended from a Caucasian who contracted the plague of the mid-fourteenth century and that ancestor survived, you may have complete immunity to HIV/AIDS."
The PlagueIn the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made. JAMA. 2001;286(17):2165-2166. doi:10.1001/jama.286.17.2165