Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biologists Discover Why 10% Of Europeans Are Safe From HIV Infection

10.03.2005


Biologists at the University of Liverpool have discovered how the plagues of the Middle Ages have made around 10% of Europeans resistant to HIV.



Scientists have known for some time that these individuals carry a genetic mutation (known as CCR5-Ä32) that prevents the virus from entering the cells of the immune system but have been unable to account for the high levels of the gene in Scandinavia and relatively low levels in areas bordering the Mediterranean. They have also been puzzled by the fact that HIV emerged only recently and could not have played a role in raising the frequency of the mutation to the high levels found in some Europeans today.

Professor Christopher Duncan and Dr Susan Scott from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, whose research is published in the March edition of Journal of Medical Genetics, attribute the frequency of the CCR5-Ä32 mutation to its protection from another deadly viral disease, acting over a sustained period in bygone historic times. Some scientists have suggested this disease could have been smallpox or even bubonic plague but bubonic plague is a bacterial disease rather than a virus and is not blocked by the CCR5-Ä32 mutation.


Professor Duncan commented: “The fact that the CCR5-Ä32 mutation is restricted to Europe suggests that the plagues of the Middle Ages played a big part in raising the frequency of the mutation. These plagues were also confined to Europe, persisted for more than 300 years and had a 100% case mortality.”

Around 1900, historians spread the idea that the plagues of Europe were not a directly infectious disease but were outbreaks of bubonic plague, overturning an accepted belief that had stood for 550 years. Professor Duncan and Dr Scott illustrated in their book, Return of the Black Death (2004, Wiley), that this idea was incorrect and the plagues of Europe (1347-1660) were in fact a continuing series of epidemics of a lethal, viral, haemorrhagic fever that used the CCR5 as an entry port into the immune system.

Using computer modeling, they demonstrated how this disease provided the selection pressure that forced up the frequency of the mutation from 1 in 20,000 at the time of the Black Death to values today of 1 in 10.

Lethal, viral haemorrhagic fevers were recorded in the Nile valley from 1500 BC and were followed by the plagues of Mesopotamia (700-450BC), the plague of Athens (430BC), the plague of Justinian (AD541-700) and the plagues of the early Islamic empire (AD627-744). These continuing epidemics slowly raised the frequency from the original single mutation to about 1 in 20,000 in the 14th century simply by conferring protection from an otherwise certain death.

Professor Duncan added: “Haemorrhagic plague did not disappear after the Great Plague of London in 1665-66 but continued in Sweden, Copenhagen, Russia, Poland and Hungary until 1800. This maintenance of haemorrhagic plague provided continuing selection pressure on the CCR5-Ä32 mutation and explains why it occurs today at its highest frequency in Scandinavia and Russia.”

Kate Spark | alfa
Further information:
http://www.liv.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>