Viking voyages: the origin of multiple sclerosis? An essay in medical history.

Poser CM.

Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02215 USA.

Multiple sclerosis is most frequently found in Scandinavia, Iceland, the British Isles and the countries settled by their inhabitants and their descendants, i.e. the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This suggests that the Vikings may have been instrumental in disseminating genetic susceptibility to the disease in those areas, as well as in other parts of the world. The Vikings raided most European countries and settled in Normandy and in Sicily and southern Italy. They engaged in trade with the Arabs along the river routes to the Caucasus, to the Black and Caspian Seas, and penetrated Persia, India and probably China. They also migrated to the East and established the Russian state. Under the name Varangians, they became part of the Byzantine army and were active in all the military activities of the Byzantine Empire. They participated in the Crusades. Russians, many of Scandinavian origin also constituted a regiment of the Mongol army and roamed throughout that Empire as well. The custom of capturing and keeping or selling women and children, which was widespread in the early Middle Ages, as well as the flourishing slave trade in men, were important factors in this genetic dissemination.

Med Hypotheses. 1997 Dec;49(6):477-86. Related Articles, Links

Multiple sclerosis: a geographical hypothesis.

Carlyle IP.

Multiple sclerosis remains a rare neurological disease of unknown aetiology, with a unique distribution, both geographically and historically. Rare in equatorial regions, it becomes increasingly common in higher latitudes; historically, it was first clinically recognized in the early nineteenth century. A hypothesis, based on geographical reasoning, is here proposed: that the disease is the result of a specific vitamin deficiency. Different individuals suffer the deficiency in separate and often unique ways. Evidence to support the hypothesis exists in cultural considerations, in the global distribution of the disease, and in its historical prevalence.


More about the Viking hypothesis of origin of the Delta32 mutation in the CCR5 gene conferring resistance to HIV-1 infection.

Lucotte G, Dieterlen F.

Centre de Neurogenetique Moleculaire, 44 rue Monge, 75005, Paris, France

The chemokine receptor CCR5 constitutes the major coreceptor for the HIV-1, because a mutant allele of the CCR5 gene named Delta32 was shown to provide to homozygotes a strong resistance against infection. In the present study the frequency of the Delta32 allele was collected in 36 European populations and in Cyprus, and the highest allele frequencies were found in Nordic countries. We constructed an allele map of Delta32 frequencies in Europe; the map is in accordance to the Vikings hypothesis of the origin of the mutation and his dissemination during the eighth to the tenth centuries.


Dupuytren contracture in North Germany. Epidemiological study of 500 cases]

Brenner P, Krause-Bergmann A, Van VH.

Department fur Plastische, Rekonstruktive und Asthetische Chirurgie, Universitat Leuven, Belgien.

Dupuytren's disease is the "classical" hand illness of the north: it affects people of Celtic or Viking descent throughout the whole of northern Europe, whereas it is an unknown disease in the Mediterranean region. Dupuytren's contracture appears to be an extremity-related disease. Owing to the unclear etiology and a lack of up-to-date demographic data for northern Germany this study aims--together with the literature--to elucidate the role of associated illnesses in an attempt to discover pathogenic explanations. 566 patients suffering from Dupuytren's disease in the area around Hanover were analysed with respect to epidemiological features and their Tubiana contracture stage. 91.2% were of pure northern German stock, 12.5% had a family predisposition. The male-to-female ratio was 7:1. Men were afflicted on average at the age of 56 years. Intellectuals were scored 3.17, while manual workers scored 4.21. There were pre-existing ipsilateral lesions in 15% of cases. 55.1% had bilateral contracture. Ectopic penile and plantar fibrosis or knuckle pads were found in 6.7% of cases. The distribution of stages I-IV decreased by 2.4% from 59.1% among the 1,808 afflicted finger rays. With a score of 3.7-3.72, drinkers and smokers presented significantly more severe contractures, while the 8.2% of diabetics displayed a milder form. Among the epileptics--all of whom were affected bilaterally--the Tubiana stage of 3.71 exceeded the median manual score of 3.63 for the group as a whole. Thus Dupuytren's disease is a general but not an exclusively extremity-related sickness. The androtropy is pathognomic. Women develop the disease one decade later than men. In old age the male-to-female ratio equalizes. Drinkers, smokers and heavy manual workers present a more severe affliction, while diabetics suffer from a significantly less severe form. Although the ulnar type dominates, the radial type accounts for 14.4% of cases. 1.9 million Germans are chronically ill because of Dupuytren's disease. Despite a trauma history, Dupuytren's disease is not recognized as an occupational disease.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1999 Jan 29;354(1379):99-108; discussion 108-9. Related Articles, Links