Science Questions

How true is it that some genes that protected people from the Black Death are the same genes that are now protecting people from HIV today?

Sun, 24th Oct 2010

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Question

Nelson Gikora, via Facebook asked:

How true is it that some genes that protected people from the Black Death are the same genes that are now protecting people from HIV today?

Answer

We put this question to Mark Marsh from University College London...

There was a hypothesis a little while ago that a mutation in one of the receptor proteins; a so-called Delta 32 for CCR5, might have had some protective effects against the plague.  I'm not sure that thatís ever really been verified, but itís certainly true that the Delta 32 allele, if one has two copies of that gene, thereís no functional receptor for the virus, so individuals with that genetic composition are in general resistant to infection.

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