The Black Plague killed an estimated 50 million Europeans between 1347 and 1351. In a research paper released Wednesday, researchers from Germany, Canada, the United States and Colombia sequenced the genome of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that caused the plague that killed a third to half of the European population nearly 700 years ago.
Fast forward several centuries, and the Black Plague is no longer a menace to the world. However, infectious diseases still kill millions of people annually worldwide, though not at the scale of the Black Plague. Below is a list of the top five infectious disease killers, according to 2004 data in a report issued by the World Health Organization in 2008. Infectious diseases are only listed; the world's top killer was heart disease that killed 7.2 million people.
- Lower respiratory infections killed 4.2 million people in 2004
- Diarrhoeal diseases killed 2.2 million people
- HIV/ AIDS killed 2 million people
- Tuberculosis killed 1.5 million people
- Neonatal infections killed 1.1 million infants
Source: Global Burden of Disease: 2004 update