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Scientists have known for some time that these individuals carry a genetic mutation (known as CCR5-delta 32) 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.
But surprisingly, this does not appear to be harmful: ‘It’s highly unusual,’ says Dr. O’Brien of the National Institutes of Health in Washington D. ‘Most genes, if you knock them out, cause serious diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia or diabetes.
Correspondence: Dr M Oppermann, Department of Immunology, Georg-August-University, Kreuzbergring 57, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.
E-mail: [email protected] ; Revised 5 October 2004; Accepted 5 October 2004; Published online 7 April 2005.
Here, we report amplifications of the CCR5-32 DNA sequence from up to 2900-year-old skeletal remains from different burial sites in central Germany and southern Italy.
Furthermore, the allele frequency of CCR5-32 in victims of the 14th century plague pandemic in Lübeck/northern Germany was not different from a historic control group.