Yersinia pestis--etiologic agent of plague

Clin Microbiol Rev. 1997 Jan;10(1):35-66. doi: 10.1128/CMR.10.1.35.


Plague is a widespread zoonotic disease that is caused by Yersinia pestis and has had devastating effects on the human population throughout history. Disappearance of the disease is unlikely due to the wide range of mammalian hosts and their attendant fleas. The flea/rodent life cycle of Y. pestis, a gram-negative obligate pathogen, exposes it to very different environmental conditions and has resulted in some novel traits facilitating transmission and infection. Studies characterizing virulence determinants of Y. pestis have identified novel mechanisms for overcoming host defenses. Regulatory systems controlling the expression of some of these virulence factors have proven quite complex. These areas of research have provide new insights into the host-parasite relationship. This review will update our present understanding of the history, etiology, epidemiology, clinical aspects, and public health issues of plague.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Animals, Wild
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Global Health
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insect Vectors
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plague / diagnosis
  • Plague / epidemiology
  • Plague / etiology*
  • Plague / history
  • Plague / therapy
  • Siphonaptera / microbiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Virulence
  • Yersinia pestis / genetics
  • Yersinia pestis / immunology
  • Yersinia pestis / pathogenicity*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Toxins