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Biotech Science

Gene Found In Black Death Survivors Stops HIV 477

Posted by Zonk
from the research-halted-at-politician's-request dept.
WindozeSux writes "According to research done by Dr. Stephen O'Brien, a mutated gene known as delta 32 found in Black Death survivor descendants, stops HIV in its tracks. In order to be immune both parents have to have the delta 32 gene. From the Article: 'In 1996, research showed that delta 32 prevents HIV from entering human cells and infecting the body. O'Brien thought this principle could be applied to the plague bacteria, which affects the body in a similar manner. To determine whether the Eyam plague survivors may have carried delta 32, O'Brien tested the DNA of their modern-day descendents...'"
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Gene Found In Black Death Survivors Stops HIV

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  • by gardyloo (512791) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:38PM (#13902842)
    ....brainnnzzzz.....
    • Are you pondering what I'm pondering Pinky?
  • by kfg (145172) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:39PM (#13902847)
    The Black Death.

    Oh yeah, we're cookin' now!

    KFG
    • Re:Cure for HIV. . . (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wisgary (799898)
      RTFA, The Black Death isn't a cure, the gene that causes people to survive the Black Death also causes people to survive an HIV infection. (If both parents have the gene, if only one of them AIDS progression is slowed down.)
    • by ceeam (39911) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @01:38AM (#13903287)
      Also, researchers found that being a geek drastically reduces your chances of getting HIV virus (and many other STD virii).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:40PM (#13902852)
    ... will it stop zombies?
  • by meatflower (830472) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:42PM (#13902857)
    This kind of solution to "curing" HIV is probably as close as we'll ever get to solving the problem. It's not going to be a wonder drug, it will be simple natural selection. Black Death came and those with the mutation survived, they didn't find a cure. Hopefully with todays technologies not only those with the mutation can survive the global epidemic that is HIV, but science can bring the benefits of that mutation to all of us.
    • by 2nd Post! (213333) <.gundbear. .at. .pacbell.net.> on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:52PM (#13902909) Homepage
      Well, until HIV becomes an airborne virus, not catching it in the first place is a pretty good way for 99% of the population to survive the epidemic...

      AIDS so far is a social disease, which means certain behaviors minimize risk and certain behaviors maximize risk; unlike, say, the flu, which is both airborne, transmitted by contact, and through animals.
      • by Muhammar (659468) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:23AM (#13903022)
        As you say - certain behaviors minimize the HIV risk and writing Slashdot tripe on Friday night is by far the most secure approach.

        • Best (Score:3, Funny)

          by ari_j (90255)
          Best comment ever. Why can't there be like one comment that is allowed to be modded up to +6 every year or so?
          • because then it would wind up getting moded on whatever happened jan 1st by some moron that didnt pay attention to the previosu moderation

            and ontop of that id say a better soloution would be to dole out a few "extra mods" to those with good karma, and say letting those with damn good karma push the moding up above 5.

            the more i think about that.. the better it sounds...
      • by DigiShaman (671371)
        Religion goes back as far as human history has been documented. Being that the basic tenants of religion build on each other, I often wonder if promiscuity is shunned in almost all of oldest civilizations because it comes from an implicit form of survival. In other words, if you have just one faithfull partner, your chances of survival are much MUCH greater in times of a massive STD pandemic.

        Take Africa and Asia for example where AIDs runs rampent. If this trend continues, only the religiously faithfull and
        • by Anonymous Coward
          "Religion goes back as far as human history has been documented. Being that the basic tenants of religion build on each other, I often wonder if promiscuity is shunned in almost all of oldest civilizations because it comes from an implicit form of survival. In other words, if you have just one faithfull partner, your chances of survival are much MUCH greater in times of a massive STD pandemic."

          There's also the mental benifits that go with having a single partner for life. Just ask all the married guys and g
        • In other words, if you have just one faithfull partner, your chances of survival are much MUCH greater in times of a massive STD pandemic.

          According to evolution theory, its the production of and survival of the offspring that is important. Once a person is beyond or incapable of bearing children, evolutionary they are dead.
          • nope (Score:3, Insightful)

            by r00t (33219)
            Even if you are unable to produce children, you can still influence the survival of your blood relatives. This includes:
            • siblings and their children
            • children you may already have, and their children
            • nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, etc.
            They share more of your DNA than some random person, so it counts. You could babysit your brother's grandkids so that both parents can support the family better. That counts.
        • by whizistic (33541) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @01:34AM (#13903266) Homepage
          If we are speaking of old civilizations...then it seems pertinent to discuss the Romans...who were permiscuous as all hell...and were pretty damn successful. The religious aspect is bunk!
        • by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @02:30AM (#13903457)
          > Religion goes back as far as human history has been documented. Being that the basic tenants of religion build on each other, I often wonder if promiscuity is shunned in almost all of oldest civilizations because it comes from an implicit form of survival.

          Given that some of the oldest known religions practiced temple prostitution, I think your otherwise interesting speculation may be based on a false premise.
        • by Bogtha (906264) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @08:16AM (#13904230)

          Take Africa and Asia for example where AIDs runs rampent. If this trend continues, only the religiously faithfull and monogamous will survive to carry on their genes and culture.

          Not when the Vatican and religious leaders have been telling them that not only do condoms not prevent HIV infection, but are laced with HIV themselves: [guardian.co.uk]

          The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which HIV can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk.

          The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to HIV.

          Sex and the Holy City includes a Catholic nun advising her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because "the virus can pass through".

          In Lwak, near Lake Victoria, the director of an Aids testing centre says he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition. Gordon Wambi told the programme: "Some priests have even been saying that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids."

          Still think religion in Africa helps fight HIV?

      • everynight i go to sleep worried that al qaeda communist nijas will jump out of home made palnes without even needing parachutes and land on our unsuspecting population with syringes full of HIV, infecting as many of us condom using, non-heroin doing, upright citizens as possible, after i saw a press conference suggesting this was going to happen. with a vaccine or cure, this wouldn't be a fear. we could stand in the streets, facing the al qaeda attackers yelling "give us aids bastards, give us aids!" it
      • is you blame people for what a virus does. i used to be an aids educator before antiretrovirals came out in the early 90s. i remember at one conference on the issue i went to there were basically 2 dominant subgroups: gay men and black women. the black women were saying things like "this horrible gay disease, if gay men weren't so promiscuous we wouldn't have to deal with aids." the gay men were saying things like "this horrible african disease, if some african hadn't had sex with a monkey (a surprisingly c
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "This kind of solution to "curing" HIV is probably as close as we'll ever get to solving the problem."

      Wow! Guess that whole abstenance thing didn't work out. How about not sharing needles? Or screening blood donations. Maybe what we really mean is that we don't have a solution to AIDS that still allows us to engage in those destructive behaviours we all enjoy.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This kind of solution to "curing" HIV is probably as close as we'll ever get to solving the problem. It's not going to be a wonder drug, it will be simple natural selection.

      No, absolutely not! You cannot just leave hundreds of millions of Africans to die of AIDS without helping. We must not use "natural selection" (a.k.a. genocide) to solve our problems. These are human beings, just as much your own family are human beings, and we are all kin.

      Maybe AIDS will never be eradicated, but it can be fought very
  • One man's mutation (Score:5, Informative)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:43PM (#13902864)
    . . . is another's saving trait.

    This article is interesting on several levels. The fact that some people are completely immune to the disease isn't really remarkable. That's been known for quite some time. What's amazing is that this fairly basic gene (a way of bringing stuff into cells) is completely redundant. It makes me wonder how much of our cellular machinery is simply there in case another part fails.

    Don't worry. I don't think there's intelligent design behind it. Just cases of plagues that have swept through populations from time to time, causing these interesting redundancies to appear.
    • quite interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swschrad (312009) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:50PM (#13902896) Homepage Journal
      of such discoveries is medicine made. now, the difficult part is going to be getting the experiments to prove it into the public eye, infecting "32" blood with HIV in vitro, and then taking that research into the luddite chambers of policymakers.

      we'll have fun galore when that happens. a true righteous moral civil war.
      • we'll have fun galore when that happens. a true righteous moral civil war.

        Ok, I'll raise your poker bid...

        We'll have fun galore when the "gay gene" is found. Watch what happens when the pro-abortion and pro-gay crowd fight eachother. Could it be the gay community takes a stance on pro-life?
    • Don't worry. I don't think there's intelligent design behind it. Just cases of plagues that have swept through populations from time to time, causing these interesting redundancies to appear.

      Agreed, it's interesting stuff. But it's not causing the redundancies/mutations, just fixating them in a population.
      • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:08AM (#13902961)
        Ah, but something encouraged the development of multiple redundant pathways. I suspect that what happened is that a second pathway randomly developed many years ago (probably before modern humans). After that, something came along that killed everyone off who only had the single pathway. I'm speculating that it's a disease, but it could be aliens who had it out for single pathway humans - that's evolution for ya. After my imagined catastrophe, the survivors still had two pathways. This likely had an extra metabolic cost, but it was fairly miniscule.

        Human DNA has an awful lot of redundancies in it. I sometimes wonder how many protiens are expressed that just float around not doing much. Most bacteria have trim and efficient DNA. That keeps their energy expenditures low, letting them focus on important things like reproduction. Humans, on the other hand, have a surprising amount of extra stuff collected along the way. It turns out that being extremely efficient isn't a big survival trait for humans.
        • being extremely efficient isn't a big survival trait for humans

          At least we still focus on important things like reproduction.
        • by sznupi (719324)
          Not much float around...if some mutation gave birth to proteins not doing anything...than that simply didn't do anything to organism and wasn't promoted/denounced in any way by natural selection.
          And comparison with bacteria isn't fair...we reproduce at their level all the time, constantly. Your cells that is.
          Sure, there's perhaps some "waste" given for example simply the amount of nuclear material...but it gives us so much.
          There are things in which bacteria aren't very effective. Sense of sight, for example
        • It turns out that being extremely efficient isn't a big survival trait for humans.

          I'll use that excuse the next time my boss bitches.

          "But, boss, I haven't been selected for efficiency! I'm versatile and redundant!"

          Hmm...I can see that backfiring.
        • by Quadraginta (902985) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @02:26AM (#13903444)
          You mention a very, very interesting fact, which blew me away when I learned it about our genetics. What is it with (1) all this pointless intron DNA, and (2) all this God-damned splicing? Why don't the prokaryotes do that stuff? This is, as you say, weird.

          So is it an accident? Given that there've been only about 10^5 generations of homo sapiens, whereas bacteria do that every 2-3 years, and they've been around billions of years -- is it just that we've not evolved as far as they? Will our DNA be a lot tighter in 30,000,000 AD (assuming we survive at all)?

          Or is there some reason designed in by...(audience holds breath)...no, not God for, uh, Christ's sake...but by natural selection that gives us an advantage with all this DNA swapping?

          Have I not heard the thought that it might be because a bacteria's big problem is a hostile environment and his lack of ability to manipulate it other than eating it, whereas one of our big problems (before modern medicine) was fighting off viral attackers? And, if that's the case, this screwball shuffling around of the DNA, plus "hiding" the real genes amongst acres of useless, identical-looking trash are clever techniques for making us much more elusive targets for viruses.

          Joe Virus successfully invades the pathetic human cell, sneaking past the killer white cells, snipping the wire and snaking under the membrane while the guard dogs howl....he makes it! Cleverly picks the lock on the super-secure citadel of the nucleus, gets out his dynamite, blows the doors off the chromatid fiber, and, chortling, inserts his DNA sequence into the host DNA.

          But alas for Joe, 90% of the DNA is never used, and so Joe has a 90% chance of having inserted himself into a string of rubbish that will never be transcribed. Poor bastard, waiting and waiting...

          Now to get back on topic, I've also heard that one caution people have about gene therapy (such as slipping in a gene that protects against HIV) is that if there are these ancient unexpressed viruses lying about in our DNA, what might we do if we muck around with it by slipping in some new genes? Might we accidentally "turn on" a virus dormant since the next to last Ice Age? If it's just a Neanderthal version of a head cold, big deal -- but what if it's something far worse than AIDS itself? As fatal as AIDS, say, but with a 60 day mean survival time and the ability to be spread through the air? Brrr.
          • by Grym (725290) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:17AM (#13903881)

            ...is it just that we've not evolved as far as they? Will our DNA be a lot tighter in 30,000,000 AD (assuming we survive at all)?

            While much of your post is generally on the fringes of what we know, I can say with general certainty that the answers to these questions is "No" and "No."

            For the first question, one shouldn't leap to the conclusion that the number of generations equates to evolutionary success. The two aren't necessarily related. Remember, evolution is essentially about the filling of available biological niches. The niches that humans and bacteria fill are vastly different. In light of this, calling one type of successful species "more evolved" than vastly different, yet also successful, species really carries little meaning. Perhaps a better way of putting it is this: Evolution is not forward-looking. There is no beginning, middle, or end to the evolutionary path of a species. Any species present today (simply by virtue of the fact that it has survived) is just as "evolved" as any other.

            For the second question, I seriously doubt our genome will (naturally) become smaller over time. Unlike bacteria, finding the extra nutrient sources to accommodate the amount of unused DNA or non-useful protein products doesn't appear to be a selective pressure. I'd suspect that this is because such an inefficiency is relatively minor for a large multi-cellular omnivore such as us and wasn't an evolutionary driving force in the past nor will be in the future.

            Lastly, I'm suspicious to call the DNA whose function remains unknown "junk DNA" as others do. Who's to say that it doesn't serve a purpose simply because we lack a theory for one? To do so reeks of scientific arrogance.

            -Grym

          • Not Quite True (Score:3, Informative)

            by meehawl (73285)
            90% of the DNA is never used, and so Joe has a 90% chance of having inserted himself into a string of rubbish that will never be transcribed.

            That's not quite true. Many retroviruses and retrotransposons carry their own promoter sequences with them, so they increase the chance of transcription by the cellular machinery. It gets trickier when you have something like SINES, however, which lack promoter elements. They basically cluster near LINES, which carry promoter activity, so that the SINES get transcribed
        • by Grym (725290)

          Ah, but something encouraged the development of multiple redundant pathways. I suspect that what happened is that a second pathway randomly developed many years ago (probably before modern humans). After that, something came along that killed everyone off who only had the single pathway.

          Ahh... how convenient. My professor asked a question very similar to the issue you're touching on in immunology class the other day. While we haven't studied CCR5 in particular, here's an overview. (Please, anyone, co

  • by saskboy (600063) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:48PM (#13902886) Homepage Journal
    As I understand it, Plauge is a bateria that can be treated these days. And a little bit of vaccine trivia for you:
    Cow pox infection survivors didn't get Small pox, so that's how the innoculation for mankind's only "eliminated" disease began to be put under control.
    • by Quirk (36086) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:03AM (#13902948) Homepage Journal
      Vacca is latin for cow. The milkmaidens who had contracted cow pox were found to be more immune to small pox. The first 'vaccine' amounted to guesstimating the number and severity of scratches to hatch onto someone's arm then scabs from cowpox were rubbed into the wounds.This took place in England.

      Initially few took up the practise. Interesting many clergymen dennounced the vaccine practise as sin. The clergy believed smallpox was god's design and all, even the children, who died of smallpox were decreed by god to so die. What finally turned the tide some years later was the adoption of the vaccine practise by a high ranking member of the British aristocracy. She (her name and title don't immediately come to mind) had her children vaccinated. The strong british caste system was momentum enough to swing favour toward vaccination.

      • by Coward, Anonymous (55185) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @01:28AM (#13903238)
        What finally turned the tide some years later was the adoption of the vaccine practise by a high ranking member of the British aristocracy. She (her name and title don't immediately come to mind) had her children vaccinated.

        It was the Princess of Wales (though she wasn't the first, she was the person who made it popular). See the Variolation section of this page [camlt.org] for more information. This form of vaccination had been practiced in Asia for a couple thousand years before making it to the West.
    • One problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by Andy Dodd (701) <.ude.llenroc. .ta. .7dta.> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:08AM (#13902962) Homepage
      Plague doesn't cause the mutation, it SELECTS the mutation.

      i.e. if you don't have the mutation, plague won't give it to you. It just won't kill you even if you don't get treated if you have the mutation.
      • Well that still could be good, since if we get ourselves modified to be resistant to HIV, we might have a better immune defence against the Plauge too?
        • Re:One problem (Score:3, Informative)

          by Andy Dodd (701)
          As the parent to my post said, plague can be treated. While some of the linked articles note many similarities between plague and AIDS in the methods they use to attack the body, there is one key difference between the two. AIDS is viral, plague is bacterial. As a result, plague can be treated easily with modern antibiotics. Thus, providing immunity to plague as a side effect of AIDS immunity is not relevant, since plague can already be treated.

          So far, the art of modifying a person's genetic makeup is i
    • Isn't polio relatively unknown nowadays as well? And if you want to talk about diseases, not just infections, you can add scurvy and pellagra to the list (with a large asterisk pointing out that food supply problems (i.e., famine) cause outbreaks).
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadPrez (129998) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:56PM (#13902926) Homepage
    So what's stopping me from having science insert that gene into my offspring?
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mrchaotica (681592) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:58PM (#13902931)
      Nothing but cost, [lack of] technology, and religious fundamentalists, I think.
      • Hey, what's with the flamebait mod? All my post contains is a statement of fact; there's no value judgement attached.

        Does somebody want to refute the statement that "religious fundamentalists could provide political opposition to inserting that gene into DeadPrez's offspring?"
    • George Bush.

      We have the technology, just noone willing to use it in the USA.

      Our new genetic overlords will not be Americans.
    • by r00t (33219)
      We're pretty crude about modifying DNA. When we cured a bunch of kids that had some lung-related genetic disease, a good number of them got cancer. It seems that we scrambled the DNA while patching it.
    • The low probability of your ever producing offspring?
    • So what's stopping me from having science insert that gene into my offspring?

      A delta-32 dating service???
    • You mean mad science!

      Muah-ha-ha-ha! They laughed at me, but I'll show them! I'll show them all!
  • by apoKalypse (568147) <brian382 @ h o t m a i l.com> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:02AM (#13902945)
    to the website. The website is about researching into the gene CCR5 related to its ability to prevent infection from the Black Death, based on the research in 1996 that showed it was able to block out HIV infection.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:09AM (#13902966) Journal
    Things like this put an interesting spin on science in general. Trying not to be off topic here, but if we are to reach anything like a utopian state (think Star Trek here) then we, as a race, have to overcome quite a few thresholds. The number of people on the planet is one, the fact that modern medicine is allowing more mutations to survive, including weak mutations (read that as mutations that weaken the population over time rather than insert survival traits like immunity to AIDS).

    The things that we are doing through science for money is going to become a wall that will stop us in the future, or can. Right now, it is unknown if our vegetable and foodstuffs are actually as valuable to the human body as they are supposed to be. I'm not talking about hamburgers, but raw vegetables. Pesticides and genetic modifications of crops is changing how they are used by the body.

    Its not improbable that scientists could insert the immunity genes via foodstuffs in the near future, rather like making us all part of a super race... or rather the benefactors of the genetic makeup of superhumans. This process, in the course of history, has always wiped much of the world clean of the weaker specimens, leaving those with the stronger mutations to live on. That in turn drags down the rest of the population as genetic weakness is passed on.

    This is a reasonable idea, just give the good genes to everyone.... but morally, that is the wrong thing to do. It will turn out that only those with an extra $150k will get the therapy... no insurance will cover it, 3rd world citizens can't buy it, and its not so different than what some of Hitler's folks were attempting to do (at least in some respects) ...

    So, will it be superhumans or ginormous global conglomerates that run the future earth?

    • Corporations would patent the genes. If you had kids, you or they would be violating the patent. Probably your "enhanced" DNA would also contain a copy protection mechanism that you couldn't bypass without violating the DMCA. For example, you might be born without the necessary organs.


    • Not to mention it's not a good idea to play with the gene pool on a global basis. A seemingly beneficial genetic fix might turn out to have unintended bad consequences that we don't realize until perhaps generations later. Imagine if we toyed with our genes to make the whole population AIDS-immune, and a few years later it turns out that this change made us highly susceptible to some other drastic and unpredictable issue. Imagine that the new issue quickly wiped virtually everyone who had the modificatio
    • by shmlco (594907) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @01:24AM (#13903227) Homepage
      "The number of people on the planet is one..."

      You should pick another boogeyman. Birth rates are declining worldwide. Over a third of all countries now have birth rates below replacement levels. Places like Japan, Italy, Germany, and Spain are expected to have population levels 30% lower than they are now by 2050.

      The big factor is cities. Over 50% of the world's population now lives in a city. On a farm, more kids meant more helping hands. In a city those helping hands aren't needed, and in fact pull down prosperity levels. As such, people choose not to have them.

      As China and India become more prosperous, they too will join the club.

      In short, the "Population Bomb" was a dud.

      • On a farm, more kids meant more helping hands. In a city those helping hands aren't needed, and in fact pull down prosperity levels. As such, people choose not to have them.

        I agree that "overpopulation" will not be a problem in the future. However, the above strikes me as a little too rational and informed. I'd attribute people's choices more to selfishness than anything else: there are simply so many more choices and opportunities available today than there were in the past, so people are more reluctant to
    • I have thought about the possibility of a uptopian society for a while, and have come to the following conclusion:

      There are two ways to eliminate poverty and allow all members of a society to function cooperatively as a whole. You can either drastically alter human nature to the point where no one desires personal gain through another's loss (unless the overall gain for the society is positive, in which case it is justified). The second option is to remove all possibility for any individual to harm another
  • Jeez... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fm6 (162816) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:11AM (#13902975) Homepage Journal
    Nobody seems to have noticed that TFA is just a summary of a TV show. And one that doesn't seem to have that much to say about Delta 32 either. Anyway, judging from Google, Delta 32 is old news.
    • This story is interesting, but as you mention, it isn't new.

      This is the Zonk Effect in action. A mutation that Zonk has allows hime to think old news is news. So he forwards this. Another mutation causes Zonk to pass off press releases as news -- see today's "Microsoft as Vigilante" story.

      Folks like you happen to have the "Google" mutation, which means that you are immune to mistaking old information for "new". When you see something interesting, you Google it, and immeditately discover that you've been "Zo
  • ..Think of it as a gift to future generations. There was a Secrets of the Dead episode about this on PBS which was pretty interesting. Mystery of the Black Death [pbs.org]
  • Gene links (Score:5, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @01:26AM (#13903228)
    The CCR5 gene (which includes the CC5's with the delta 32 mutation) is on chromosome #3. You can look over the DNA code (nucleotides, codons etc.) and get more information on a number of sites:

    UCSC Genome browser [ucsc.edu] - has the whole gene, but you can zoom in on segments if you want.

    NIH [nih.gov] - this has links or links to links of everything you'd want to know.

  • So one guy is immune to HIV. We use virus carriers to alter our DNA to include that particular gene. Another guy is immune to so and so cancer. We all get that gene too, the way we get flu shots.

    So in a few decades, do we all look alike? Do we all become equally vulnerable to a new strain?
  • by Cally (10873) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @02:05AM (#13903374) Homepage
    ...to point out that, in these days of mass panic over the current (relatively harmless to humans) H5N1 avian flu virus, there is but one cry we all think of.... "Bring out yer dead!" [intriguing.com] (For non-UK readers: a tabloid panic over bird flu has just swept the country - hundreds of tabloid hacks have cottoned onto the notion of an inevitable pandemic leading to mass graves, collapse of society as the economy grinds to a halt, etc, and totally failed to understand the connection between the current bird flu epidemic, and the potential future human pandemic. Retroviruses are such pesky buggers...
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @02:23AM (#13903429) Homepage
      They've even started banning shows that birds are appearing in, for fear of infecting the general population.

      Idiots.

      I feel like beating the editors with repeatedly with a cluebat. All the birds have *bird* flu. Not human flu. Humans are not birds. We do not have feathers, and cannot fly. Neither are we parrots. Which are also birds. Even dead parrots.

      If/When the virus:

      (a) jumps the species gap (which there's evidence it has done already a few times),
      and (here's the kicker...) (b) the mutation can not only survive, but transfer to other human hosts (this hasn't happened yet) then there will be an issue.

      Then it won't be bird flu any more. It'll be human flu.

      Caveat to (b) - it may lose virulence in the tranfer, and end up just like all the other flu outbreaks that the press don't like to talk about because they're not scary enough, like 1967.

      Oh, and (c) we know *just* a little bit more more about disease prevention than we did in 1918...
  • by Melllvar (911158) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @07:18AM (#13904094)

    is how this mutation got into the general population in the first place.

    The current operating theory [nih.gov], as I understand it, is that it originated (uhhh ... mutated?) somewhere in southern Finland [plosjournals.org], made it's way across the Baltic Sea to Sweden, and from there fanned out across Europe and West Asia during the period of Viking expansion -- from about the 8th-10th centuries.

    The mutation is found in native populations as far away as Cyprus and North Africa; but the closer you get to Scandinavia, the more prevalent it becomes. So, really, the Vikings were doing the rest of Europe a public service while they were casually burning it into the ground.

    Plunder. The gift that keeps on giving

  • This is news? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mahkno (887550) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @09:01AM (#13904362)
    PBS ran a documentary on this a few years ago. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_plague/index. html [pbs.org]

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