By: April Carson
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have discovered how the Middle Ages' plagues made approximately 10% of Europeans resistant to HIV. The study could lead to new treatments for AIDS.
The researchers analyzed the genomes of over 3,000 Europeans and found that a mutation in the gene CCR5 had spread throughout the population during the Black Death and other plagues. This mutation makes people resistant to HIV infection.
The discovery could help to develop new treatments for AIDS, as well as new ways to prevent the virus from spreading. It is also possible that the mutation could be used to create a vaccine against HIV.
Scientists have known for some time that these persons carry a genetic fault (known as CCR5-delta 32) that prevents the virus from entering immune system cells, but they've been unable to explain why Scandinavian populations had such high amounts of the gene and why adjacent Mediterranean regions had such low amounts. The CCR5-delta 32 mutation is a genetic variation that results in the deletion of a protein called CCR5.
The scientists have also been perplexed by the fact that HIV appeared just recently and may not have had a hand in driving the frequency of the mutation to the high levels observed in some Europeans today.
According to a research published in the March edition of Journal of Medical Genetics, which was led by Dr. Christopher Duncan and Dr. Susan Scott from the University's School of Biological Sciences, people who had the CCR5-delta 32 mutation were protected from another deadly viral illness for an extended amount of time in ancient times.
According to some researchers, this sickness might have been smallpox or even bubonic plague, however bubonic plague is a bacterial rather than viral illness and is unaffected by the CCR5-delta 32 change.
“The fact that the CCR5-delta 32 mutation is limited to Europe suggests that the Middle Ages plagues had a huge role in its increased frequency,” said Professor Duncan. These pandemics were also limited to Europe and endured for more than 300 years, with a 100% case fatality rate.
Around 1900, historians promoted the notion that the epidemics of Europe were not a direct infection but rather plagues caused bubonic plague, which had been believed for 550 years. In his book Return of the Black Death (2004, Wiley), Professor Duncan and Dr Scott discredited this theory and showed that the plagues of Europe (1347-1660) were in fact an extended series of viral hemorrhagic fevers infecting humans via the CCR5 entry port.
They showed how this disease exerted selection pressure, pushing up the rate of the mutation from 1 in 20,000 at the time of the Black Death to values today of 1 in 10.
From 1500 BC, lethal viral hemorrhagic fevers were reported in the Nile valley, which were then followed by the plagues of Mesopotamia (700-450BC), Athens (430BC), Justinian's Plague (AD541-700) and early Islamic empire plagues (AD627-744). Simply by giving protection from an expected death, these recurring epidemics gradually increased the frequency from a single mutation to approximately 1 in 20,000 during the 14th century.
"Hemorrhagic plague didn't go away after the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666," according to Dr. Duncan, but it persisted in Sweden, Copenhagen, Russia, Poland and Hungary until 1800. This persistence of hemorrhagic plague enabled continuing selection pressure on the CCR5-delta 32 variant and explains why it is at its most common prevalence among Scandinavians and Russians today.
4BIDDEN UPDATES: March 2022 by Billy Carson and Elisabeth Hoekstra
About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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