Levaquin (levofloxacin) has been approved by the FDA for the treatment and prevention of the plague. Levofloxacin is a synthetic antibiotic of the fluoroquinolones drug class; it is currently used for the treatment of severe bacterial infection, or infections for which other antibiotics have not worked.

Levaquin is produced and marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.

The FDA has also approved Levaquin to lower the chances of contracting the plague after exposure to Yersinia pestis.

Yersinia pestis and plagues in human history

Yersinia pestis, previously known as Pasteurella pestis, is a bacterium which can infect humans and many animals.

Infection can take three forms:
  • septicemic
  • pneumonic
  • the infamous bubonic plagues
Scientists and historians say that Yersinia pestis has been responsible for many epidemics in human history in which mortality was extremely high. Examples include the Black Death, which is said to have wiped out one third of Europe's human population between 1347 and 1353. The bacterium was most likely also involved in the Plague of Justinian in AD 542.

Yersinia pestis and the terrorist threat

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Scientists today fear that Yersinia pestis could be used in terrorist attacks. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, classifies Yersinia pestis as a Category A pathogen, and says preparations should be made for possible terrorist attacks.

Yersinia pestis very rare today

Despite its devastating history, the bacterium is extremely rare today. According to WHO (World Health Organization), there are approximately 1,000 to 2,000 reported cases of human infection annually worldwide.

Testing Levaquin's efficacy in preventing and treating Yersinia pestis exposure was done on African Green monkeys. For ethical reasons, human trials were not possible.

The following drugs are now FDA approved for the treatment and/or prevention of plague:
  • Levaquin (levofloxacin)
  • Streptomycin
  • Doxycycline
  • Tetracycline
According to the Wall Street Journal, Johnson & Johnson shares rose 22 cents on Friday to $64.79.

Written by Christian Nordqvist