09:25 27 May 2013
Scientists have finally identified the pathogen that triggered the Irish potato famine that resulted in the death of one million people in 1845. The plant pathogen, the HERB-1, was identified by scientists after they tested sample potatoes that were collected at the height of the famine.
Scientists from Europe and the U.S. have found that the strain of blight originated in Mexico and evolved until it caused the massive crop failure in Ireland three hundred years later.
Scientists said that the pathogen is “most likely gone extinct.”
"Perhaps this strain became extinct when the first resistant potato varieties were bred at the beginning of the 20th Century," explained Kentaro Yoshida from The Sainsbury Laboratory.
"What is certain is that these findings will greatly help us to understand the dynamics of emerging pathogens. This type of work paves the way for the discovery of many more treasures of knowledge hidden in herbaria."
The summer of 1845, which was mild but very wet, gave the perfect condition for the blight to spread out easily. This tragically resulted in one million deaths in Ireland.
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