Human plague: An old scourge that needs new answers

Xavier Vallès, Nils Chr Stenseth, Christian Demeure, Peter Horby, Paul S. Mead, Oswaldo Cabanillas, Mahery Ratsitorahina, Minoarisoa Rajerison, Voahangy Andrianaivoarimanana, Beza Ramasindrazana, Javier Pizarro-Cerda, Holger C. Scholz, Romain Girod, B. Joseph Hinnebusch, Ines Vigan-Womas, Arnaud Fontanet, David M. Wagner, Sandra Telfer, Yazdan Yazdanpanah, Pablo TortosaGuia Carrara, Jane Deuve, Steven R. Belmain, Eric D’ortenzio, Laurence Baril

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Yersinia pestis, the bacterial causative agent of plague, remains an important threat to human health. Plague is a rodent-borne disease that has historically shown an outstanding ability to colonize and persist across different species, habitats, and environments while provoking sporadic cases, outbreaks, and deadly global epidemics among humans. Between September and November 2017, an outbreak of urban pneumonic plague was declared in Madagascar, which refocused the attention of the scientific community on this ancient human scourge. Given recent trends and plague’s resilience to control in the wild, its high fatality rate in humans without early treatment, and its capacity to disrupt social and healthcare systems, human plague should be considered as a neglected threat. A workshop was held in Paris in July 2018 to review current knowledge about plague and to identify the scientific research priorities to eradicate plague as a human threat. It was concluded that an urgent commitment is needed to develop and fund a strong research agenda aiming to fill the current knowledge gaps structured around 4 main axes: (i) an improved understanding of the ecological interactions among the reservoir, vector, pathogen, and environment; (ii) human and societal responses; (iii) improved diagnostic tools and case management; and (iv) vaccine development. These axes should be cross-cutting, translational, and focused on delivering context-specific strategies. Results of this research should feed a global control and prevention strategy within a “One Health” approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0008251
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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