A new study found that our ancestors survived the Black Death and carried a gene that makes us more vulnerable to certain diseases.
This discovery is a significant step in understanding how germs influence our genetic makeup through history, according research published last week by the journal. Nature.
“Our genome today is a reflection of our whole evolutionary history,” said Luis Barreiro, a senior author of the study. Our immune systems have been greatly affected by how genes protect survivors from the bubonic plague.
Research has shown that this increases our risk of developing autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s and Lupus.
The single most deadly event recorded in history is the Black Death. It was a 14th-century outbreak of bubonic disease. It spread throughout Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, killing up to 30% to 50% of those populations.
This mortality rate is at most 200 times greater than COVID’s.
Barreiro and colleagues at the University of Chicago, Ontario’s McMaster University, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris analyzed genetic samples from the skeletons of more than 200 people who died in London and Denmark over a 100-year period as the plague swept through their regions.
Researchers found that survivors of the Black Death had a gene mutation that helped protect them from the plague pathogen, Yersinia pestis, which is carried by rodent fleas. These mutations were passed down by survivors and are still carried by many Europeans.
Barreiro stated that he doesn’t believe the COVID-19 epidemic will significantly impact future evolution. The death rate is much lower than that of the Black Death and most COVID-19 victims had already had children.