Evidence suggests bubonic plague had long-term effect on human immunity genes
Scientists examining the remains of 36 bubonic plague victims from a 16th century mass grave in Germany have found the first evidence that evolutionary adaptive processes, driven by the disease, may have conferred immunity on later generations of people from the region.
"We found that innate immune markers increased in frequency in modern people from the town compared to plague victims," said the study's joint-senior author Paul Norman, Ph.D., associate professor in the Division of Personalized Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "This suggests these markers might have evolved to resist the plague."
The study, done in conjunction with the Max Planck Institute in Germany, was published online Thursday in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
The researchers collected DNA samples from the inner ear bones of individuals in a mass grave in the southern German city of Ellwangen which experienced bubonic plague outbreaks in the 16th and 17th centuries. Then they took DNA samples from 50 current residents of the town.
They compared their frequency spectra—the distribution of gene variants in a given sample—for a large …
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