Bubonic plague

Bubonic plague

DiseaseDisorder infobox

Caption =
DiseasesDB = 14226
ICD10 =
ICD9 = ICD9|020.0
MedlinePlus =
eMedicineSubj =
eMedicineTopic =
MeshID = D010930

Bubonic plague is the best-known manifestation of the bacterial disease plague, caused by the bacterium "Yersinia pestis" (formerly known as "Pasteurella pestis"). Bubonic plague is often used synonymously for plague, but it does in fact refer specifically to an infection that enters through the skin and travels through the lymphatics, as is often seen in flea-borne infections. Bubonic Plague kills about 50% of infected patients in 4-7 days. The Bubonic plague is believed by many to be the Black Death that was in Europe in the 1340s.

Pathology and transmission

The Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system, usually resulting from the bite of an infected flea. The fleas are often found on rodents, and seek out other prey when their rodent hosts die. Once established, bacteria rapidly spread to the lymph nodes and multiply. "Yersinia pestis" can resist phagocytosis and even reproduce inside phagocytes and kill them. As the disease progresses, the lymph nodes can hemorrhage and become necrotic. Bubonic plague can progress to lethal septicemic plague in some cases.


The most famous symptom of bubonic plague is swollen lymph nodes, called "buboes." These are commonly found in the armpits, groin or neck. The bubonic plague was the first step of the ongoing plague. The two other forms of the plague, pneumonic and septicemic, resulted after a patient with the bubonic plague developed pneumonia or blood poisoning.

The plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. The disease also causes symptoms like spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black, heavy breathing, continuous blood vomiting, aching limbs and terrible pain.


In the modern era, several classes of antibiotics are effective in treating bubonic plague. These include the aminoglycosides streptomycin and gentamicin, the tetracyclines tetracycline and doxycycline and the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin. Patients with plague in the modern era usually recover completely with prompt diagnosis, and treatment, although the disease is rarely seen in the industrialized world.

Further reading

*cite book
last=Alexander |first=John T.
title=Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia: Public Health and Urban Disaster
year=2003, 1980
publisher=Oxford University Press
location=Oxford, UK; New York, NY

*cite book
last=Carol |first=Benedict
title=Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth-Century China
publisher=Stanford University Press
location=Stanford, CA

*cite book
last=Biddle |first=Wayne
title=A Field Guide to Germs
year=2002 |edition= 2nd Anchor Books edition
publisher=Anchor Books
location=New York

*cite book
last=Echenberg |first=Myron J.
title=Plague Ports: The Global Urban Impact of Bubonic Plague, 1894-1901
publisher=New York University Press
location=New York, NY

*cite book
last=Little |first=Lester K.
title=Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750
publisher=Cambridge University Press
location=New York, NY

*cite book
last=Scott |first=Susan, and C. J. Duncan
title=Biology of Plagues: Evidence from Historical Populations
publisher=Cambridge University Press
location=Cambridge, UK; New York, NY

ee also

*The Black Death
*List of historical plagues


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bubonic plague — (Med.) a severe and often fatal disease caused by infection with the bacterium {Yersinia pestis} (formerly {Pasteurella pestis}), transmitted to man by the bite of fleas, themselves usually infected by biting infected rodents. It is characterized …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • bubonic plague — ► NOUN ▪ a form of plague transmitted by rat fleas and characterized by the formation of buboes …   English terms dictionary

  • bubonic plague — n. a contagious disease, the most common form of plague, caused by a bacterium (Yersinia pestis) transmitted by fleas from infected rats, and characterized by buboes, fever, prostration, and delirium: see BLACK DEATH …   English World dictionary

  • Bubonic plague — The most common form of the plague, named for the characteristic buboes buboes are enlarged lymph nodes ( swollen glands ) in the groin which are usually very tender and painful. Lymph nodes may be similarly affected elsewhere such as in the… …   Medical dictionary

  • Bubonic Plague —    This plague swept across western and central Europe during the fourteenth century, killing about one third of the 60,000,000 people living in that area.    Needless to say, it destroyed the economy of affected areas. The cost of labor went up …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

  • bubonic plague — [[t]bjuːbɒ̱nɪk ple͟ɪg, AM buː [/t]] N UNCOUNT Bubonic plague is a serious infectious disease spread by rats. It killed many people during the Middle Ages. Syn: plague …   English dictionary

  • bubonic plague — noun the most common form of the plague in humans; characterized by chills, prostration, delirium and the formation of buboes in the armpits and groin; does not spread from person to person • Syn: ↑pestis bubonica, ↑glandular plague • Hypernyms:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • bubonic plague — noun Date: 1885 plague caused by a bacterium (Yersinia pestis) and characterized especially by the formation of buboes …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • bubonic plague — See plague …   Dictionary of microbiology

  • bubonic plague — bu|bon|ic plague [bju:ˌbɔnık ˈpleıg US bu:ˌba: ] n [U] [Date: 1800 1900; : Medieval Latin; Origin: bubo swelling , from Greek boubon (swelling in) the groin ] a very serious disease spread by rats, that killed a lot of people in the Middle Ages… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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