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Bubonic plague bacteria (yellow) on part of the digestive system in a rat flea (purple)

B. Joseph Hinnebusch, Elizabeth Fischer and Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

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Bubonic plague bacteria on part of the digestive system in a rat flea 

Here, bubonic plague bacteria (yellow) are shown in the digestive system of a rat flea (purple). Carried by rodents and spread by fleas, the bubonic plague killed a third of Europeans in the mid-14th century. Today, it is still active in Africa, Asia and the Americas, with as many as 2,000 people infected worldwide each year. If caught early, bubonic plague can be treated with antibiotics.

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This page last reviewed on August 30, 2017