Mystery of Irish Potato Famine Solved


Denise Chow
Live Science
May 24, 2013

Photo by Spedona, via wikimedia commons

The Irish potato famine that caused mass starvation and approximately 1 million deaths in the mid-19th century was triggered by a newly identified strain of potato blight that has been christened “HERB-1,” according to a new study.

An international team of molecular biologists studied the historical spread of Phytophthora infestans, a funguslike organism that devastated potato crops and led to the famine in Ireland. The precise strain of the pathogen that caused the devastating outbreak, which lasted from 1845 to 1852, had been unknown.

“We have finally discovered the identity of the exact strain that caused all this havoc,” study co-author Hernán Burbano, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany, said in a statement.

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