Matt Drake – February 15, 2018
A PLAGUE that caused Romans to sacrifice red-coated dogs to the gods and caused famines for thousands of years is returning to the UK, scientists have said in a stark warning.
The “plague” is a fungus called Puccinia graminis which infects harvests of wheat and caused Romans to sacrifice their canines to appease the god of rust, which they thought was behind the infection.
Wheat stem rust caused crop failures for thousands of years until farmers noticed a link between the outbreaks and barberry shrubs, which were planted as hedges and harvested for their berries – leading to campaigns in Europe and North America to remove the bushes.
The last official outbreak of the plague was in the UK was 1955 but it has come back due to conservation efforts to preserve a rare species of moth called the carpet moth which live off the shrubbery.