Monday, November 07, 2005

Immunity to Black Plague linked with HIV Immunity

"Researchers have recently found an interesting group of people that are either partially or completely immune to HIV. A gene mutation that has been passed down since the time of the Black Plague in the 1600s makes people now immune to the virus that causes AIDS."

I caught an fascinating episode of Secrets of the Dead on PBS last week dealing with the "Mystery of the Black Death". I find the Black Plague to be a very interesting (and tragic) historical subject in itself, but this episode shed some light on recent discoveries of a link between the plague and AIDS. Now, it's true that they're very different forms of disease; the Plague is a bacterial disease--either bubonic, pneumonic, or septicemic--whereas HIV is a viral disease.

Despite this difference, though, both infect and kill humans in a similar fashion uncommon to almost all (if not all) other bacteria and viruses: they attack the immune system itself. This makes it extremely difficult for the immune system to ever bolster the forces needed to destroy them, because the very cells that produce what is needed are under attack.

Scientists have discovered this link through the mutated form of the gene CCR5 (called "delta 32"), which is found both in patients known to be immune to HIV and a high percentage (for DNA standards) of the modern-day descendents of Plague survivors. This also sheds light (only partly) as to why Africa--much of which never experienced the Plague--is now struggling more than many other areas of the world.

I don't know what implications this will have in the overall fight against AIDS, but it still seems to be an interesting discovery in itself. Now let us hope that some greater good may come from it.

[Note: I apologize if I incorrectly stated anything...I'm no scientist.]
Update: Here's an article I just found that goes into a bit more detail:
"Biologists discover why 10% of Europeans are safe from HIV infection" (original story found here)


At 11/07/2005 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Steve said...

But, if we find a cure, how will God kill all the homosexuals?

At 11/08/2005 03:36:00 AM, Blogger Brad said...


In other news Chris, Michelle and I are planning on visiting a site in Edinburgh that was a haven for the black plague when it swept through. It's called Mary King's Close and was a subterranean community that the city sealed off with people still inside, leaving the plague to wipe them all out. Pretty awful huh? I'll be sure to show you the pictures when I get home. In the meantime, you can check out the website at:



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