Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.
History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
The Black Death killed some 25 million Europeans in a devastating outbreak between 1347 and 1352, and then reappeared periodically for more than 300 years. Scholars had thought flea-infested rats living on ships brought the disease from China to Italy and then the rest of the continent.
But researchers Christopher Duncan and Susan Scott of the University of Liverpool say that the flea-borne bubonic plague could not have torn across Europe the way the Black Death did.Ebola virus graphic by Russell Kightley Media