View Full Version : Northern European AIDS Immunity

Dr. Solar Wolff
Friday, October 7th, 2005, 05:49 AM
About 1% or .01 of extreme Northern Europeans have absolute immunity to AIDS. They can not contract the disease even after repeated exposure. Evidently, this absolute immunity is the result of immunity to plague or small pox during the Middle Ages and is a homozygous state in which two alleles must inherited, one from each parent. The hetrozygous state, one immune allele and one non-immune allele results in delaying the onset of AIDS.

So, if .01 is the homozygous recessive, then by a little Hardy-Weinberg shortcut (square root of the homozygous recessive frequency, .01) we arrive at the actual gene frequency for these Northern Europeans of .10 or 10%. This means 10% of the population is actually carrying this gene. What this means is that Europeans, at least Northern Europeans, cannot go extinct because of AIDS. More about it at:


Sunday, October 9th, 2005, 02:27 PM
This is awesome, even though I already knew about it for some time now, thanks for the article!

Dr. Solar Wolff
Tuesday, October 11th, 2005, 12:41 AM
Evidently, the link I posted does not work or work all the time. Here are some others I found using google and searchwords: AIDS immunity/Northern European:




Wednesday, October 12th, 2005, 02:34 AM
As far as I'm aware, Europeans as a whole are less susceptible to HIV infection. As you said, selective pressure due to the plague seems to be the culprit.

Are "extreme Northern Europeans" more resilient/immune than other Europeans elsewhere?
I'm not aware of comparitive rates of infection/mortality.
Was Northern Europe more affected by the plague?

Dr. Solar Wolff
Wednesday, October 12th, 2005, 06:22 AM
As far as I'm aware, Europeans as a whole are less susceptible to HIV infection. As you said, selective pressure due to the plague seems to be the culprit.
Are "extreme Northern Europeans" more resilient/immune than other Europeans elsewhere?
I'm not aware of comparitive rates of infection/mortality.
Was Northern Europe more affected by the plague?

There seems to be some debate as to if this immunity was caused by the plague or small pox. I can only assume that the mutation was back-traced using a biological clock for this DNA sequence and so arriving at the time-period in question. My first thought when I heard this was Neanderthal immunity passed on to sapiens since it is a Northern European thing but there is no evidence for this.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008, 08:58 PM
Why are some people resistant to HIV?

HIV is by no means the first plague that human populations have weathered. Many pathogens have deeply affected our evolutionary history. In fact, the human genome is littered with the remnants of our past battles with pathogens — and one of these remnants, a mutation to a gene called CCR5, may lead researchers to a new treatment for HIV.

The mutant CCR5 allele probably began to spread in northern Europe during the past 700 years when the population was ravaged by a plague. (It may have been bubonic plague or some other pathogen; research on this topic continues.) The mutant CCR5 probably made its bearers resistant to the disease, and so its frequency increased.

In some parts of Europe today, up to 20% of the population carry at least one copy of the protective allele. However, the populations of Asia and Africa were not exposed to the same epidemics; very few Asians and Africans now carry the allele (see map above). Thus, CCR5 is fairly common in northern Europe but its frequency diminishes as one moves south, and the mutation is rare in the rest of the world.

We now know that the mutant CCR5 allele has an unexpected side effect: it confers resistance to HIV. Scientists hope that studying this by-product of past selection will help them develop new treatments for the HIV epidemic ravaging human populations today.



Thursday, November 13th, 2008, 09:25 PM
Although they are not covered by the map above, I believe that Lithuanians have shown the highest resistance to HIV infection.

Yes, as I suspected:

A high frequency of the CCR5-D32 allele in Lithuanian populations, at levels of about 16% has been discovered.[9] This allele confers resistance to HIV infection. Several theories have been advanced with regard to this genetic development; it may have arisen as a response to epidemics of smallpox or plague in the area, both of which occurred in Lithuania before the mid-19th century.

Saturday, November 15th, 2008, 11:08 AM
Tis nice to be evolved. ;)

Monday, November 24th, 2008, 09:16 PM
Since all the links in this thread are dead and because I think this is important information, I'm bumping this thread with a full article (and its working link).

Genetic HIV Resistance Deciphered

Throughout the history of the AIDS epidemic, a few lucky people have avoided infection despite being exposed again and again. Now, researchers are traveling back in evolutionary time to understand why some people are resistant -- and in some cases virtually immune -- to the AIDS virus.

Studies released this week and last year suggest that the roots of AIDS immunity extend back for centuries, long before the disease even existed. Our ethnic backgrounds and the illnesses suffered by our distant ancestors appear to play a crucial role in determining whether our genes will allow HIV to take hold in our bodies.

For now, the findings seem likely to inspire more raised eyebrows than cutting-edge drugs. But over time, the research into why some people don't get HIV may help doctors treat those who do. By understanding which genes help people fight off infection, "we might move to a time where we can make more refined decisions about timing or intensity of therapy. Now, it's like a glove where one size fits all," said Dr. Matthew Dolan, an AIDS specialist in the U.S. Air Force and co-author of a new AIDS genetics study in an online edition (http://www.sciencemag.org/sciencexpress/recent.shtml) of the journal Science.

Genetic resistance to AIDS works in different ways and appears in different ethnic groups. The most powerful form of resistance, caused by a genetic defect, is limited to people with European or Central Asian heritage. An estimated 1 percent of people descended from Northern Europeans are virtually immune to AIDS infection, with Swedes the most likely to be protected. One theory (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T3B-43W0TGF-8&_coverDate=09%2F30%2F2001&_alid=234494164&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_qd=1&_cdi=4942&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=0031b4e4717d554cdc28e7391df06974) suggests that the mutation developed in Scandinavia and moved southward with Viking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking) raiders.

All those with the highest level of HIV immunity share a pair of mutated genes -- one in each chromosome -- that prevent their immune cells from developing a "receptor" that lets the AIDS virus break in. If the so-called CCR5 receptor -- which scientists say is akin to a lock -- isn't there, the virus can't break into the cell and take it over.

To be protected, people must inherit the genes from both parents; those who inherit a mutated gene from just one parent will end up with greater resistance against HIV than other people, but they won't be immune. An estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of those descended from Northern Europeans have the lesser protection.

Using formulas that estimate how long genetic mutations have been around, researchers have discovered that the mutation dates to the Middle Ages. (Similar research in mitochondrial DNA -- passed along by women -- has suggested that Europeans are all descended from seven Ice Age matriarchs (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0393020185/102-2325318-5458543?v=glance).)

Why would the mutation stick around so long instead of giving up the ghost? Researchers initially thought the mutation provided protection against the bubonic plague that caused the Black Death (http://www.byu.edu/ipt/projects/middleages/LifeTimes/Plague.html) in Europe. Those with the mutation would have lived longer and had more children while many of their neighbors died off. The fact that the genetic mutation also provided protection against HIV centuries later would just be a coincidence.

The plague scenario has been largely discarded in favor of another deadly scourge. "A disease like smallpox that has been continuous since that time ... is more likely," said Yale University professor of epidemiology Alison Galvani, who co-wrote a study about the possible smallpox link in 2003.

According to Galvani, while the plague came and went, smallpox (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/overview/disease-facts.asp) stuck around well into the 20th century, providing even more incentive for a protective gene to live on: It would keep people alive generation after generation, instead of just during one brief epidemic.

There are other cases of genetic mutations affecting two diseases: People who inherit one of the two mutations necessary to develop sickle-cell anemia end up with extra resistance to malaria, said Dr. Donald Mosier, professor of immunology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

Last February, Mosier co-wrote a report in the journal Nature that debunked the plague theory after researchers found that mice bred with the AIDS-protective gene mutation still got sick with the plague. Mosier's not quite sure smallpox deserves credit for extending the mutation's life either, however, and suspects that a less high-profile disease -- diarrhea-causing dysentery -- may be why the mutation has lived on.

Besides the Northern Europeans and Central Asians with the CCR5 receptor gene mutation, new research shows that members of several ethnic groups have another, less-powerful kind of AIDS resistance. In the Science study released this week, a large team of investigators report that people who have more copies of a specific gene end up with greater resistance to AIDS, in some cases significantly changing how they handle getting infected.

The researchers examined the number of copies of a gene known as CCL3L1 in 4,300 people -- some HIV-positive, some HIV-negative. Those with the most copies of the gene -- but only as compared with others in their ethnic group -- had the most immunity to HIV. The HIV-positive people with the fewest gene copies got sick as much as 2.6 times faster than others who were infected.

More copies of the CCL3L1 gene appear to translate into more proteins known as cytokines (http://microvet.arizona.edu/Courses/MIC419/Tutorials/cytokines.html), which guide immune cells by latching onto receptors -- those cellular locks. The cytokines "tell inflammatory cells it's time to move and go somewhere," Mosier said. With more cytokines floating around gumming up the cellular keyholes, there are fewer locks for the AIDS virus to pick.

Compared with the almost-absolute protection afforded by the gene defects in Europeans, "the effect is not as complete, but the prevalence is much higher," said study co-author Dr. Sunil K. Ahuja, professor of medicine at the University of Texas and director of the Veterans Administration Center for HIV and AIDS in San Antonio.

What can scientists and doctors do with all this information? Doctors could potentially test AIDS patients to see if their genes make them especially vulnerable to progression of the disease, Ahuja said. "This hasn't happened yet, and we aren't there yet. But that would be some practical downstream value of the work we are doing."

Then there's the prospect that people will use genetic testing as a ticket to a carefree sex life. If you're naturally resistant to AIDS, why not dump the condoms and add a few notches to your bedpost?

The Scripps Research Institute's Mosier has gotten calls from curious citizens wondering about their genes. But don't go running to your nearest genetic laboratory just yet. For one thing, researchers aren't sure whether the protective genes both giveth and taketh away: Perhaps they make people more resistant to AIDS but also make them more vulnerable to other germs.

Then there's the pesky matter of the few people who have gotten infected with HIV even though they're supposed to be immune. "It's extremely rare," Mosier said, "but you don't want to tell people they'll be protected and then have them change their risk behavior and get exposed."

Source (http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2005/01/66198)

Monday, November 24th, 2008, 10:00 PM
Does this mean that if everyone had rampant extreme promiscuous sex, then only Swedes and a few North Europeans will survive?

The Horned God
Tuesday, November 25th, 2008, 05:02 AM
Does this mean that if everyone had rampant extreme promiscuous sex, then only Swedes and a few North Europeans will survive?

Yeah, but much of humanity would die without regrets. :P

Saturday, May 9th, 2009, 01:49 PM
Not exactly, since modern medical therapy has more or less reduced AIDS to a chronic illness. (Although the treatment is expensive.)

However, one can imagine that among Europeans there would be relatively high resistance & immunity to other viruses as well.

Also, let's not forget that promiscuity has much to do with individualism and miscegenation.