Black Death Shaped Evolution of Certain Immunity Genes, Setting Course for How We Respond to Disease Today, Researchers Find

An international team of scientists who analyzed centuries-old DNA from victims and survivors of the Black Death pandemic has identified key genetic differences that determined who lived and who died, and how those aspects of our immune systems have continued to evolve since that time. Researchers from McMaster University, the University of Chicago, the Pasteur Institute, and other organizations analyzed and identified genes that protected some against the devastating bubonic plague pandemic that swept through Europe, Asia, and Africa nearly 700 years ago. Their study was published online on October 19, 2022 in the journal Nature. The same genes that once conferred protection against the Black Death are today associated with an increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers report. The open-access Nature article is titled “Evolution of Immune Genes Is Associated with the Black Death.”
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