Life after pandemic: Lessons from post-mortality crisis Germans

In summer 2020, Gabrie Simmons ’22, a biology major and Spanish minor, participated in the Pakula Biomedical Fellowship. She worked with anthropology professor, Leslie Williams to examine the prevalence of periodontal disease in response to stress caused by the Black Death in Germany.

COVID-19 and the Black Death are similar in many ways; both pandemics were deadly, and they existed simultaneously with unemployment, food shortages, migration, and climate change. The post-mortality crisis German population gives us the opportunity to understand what health conditions may lie ahead for the pandemic survivors, as stress can take a toll on the body. Periodontal disease is a great health condition to focus on for this study, as it is visible on the skeleton. It is also an inflammatory disease, which has been shown to be correlated with stress. 86 skeletons from the pre-mortality crisis era and the post-mortality crisis era were studied for periodontitis. It was found that periodontal disease increased from the pre-mortality crisis era to the post-mortality crisis generation: this indicates that periodontitis is correlated with stress, and that it may be advantageous for our modern populations to invest in preventative care for inflammatory diseases.

August 05, 2020

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