I’ve been studying genetics and world history today and thinking about the CCR5-delta 32 mutation. Had it not developed, planet Earth would not look anything like it does.
If you are white, or partially white anywhere along your bloodline as most Americans are due to the history of slave masters siring illegitimate children with their slaves back in the 18th and 19th, you owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to a genetic mutation found among a minority of European Caucasians seven hundred years ago. Without it, you would never have been born.
Scientists have named this mutation CCR5-delta 32. Three times in human history it has kept whites from going extinct. Without it, almost every American alive today would never have been conceived because our common ancestors would have died, altering the course of world history.
Going further, it is fair to say that the United States wouldn’t even exist today had it not been for the mutation that ultimately made surviving plagues, poxes, and pandemics easier for a small subset of individuals who hit the genetic jackpot, forged in the aftermath of suffering, death, tragedy, and pain.
CCR5-delta 32 and Resistance to the Black Death
Between 1348 and 1350, the Black Death swept Europe and unleashed one of the most lethal pandemics every experienced in recorded history. It is estimated that 1 out of 2 Europeans died in a 24 month time span. Friends, family, spouses, coworkers, princes, paupers … it didn’t matter. Imagine waking up in a world two years from now when half the people you know are dead. It took 150 years for the population to reach its previous level.
Based on the DNA evidence, it appears that the majority of people who survived had the CCR5-delta 32 mutation, which can only be achieved when both your mother and father pass the underlying genetics onto you.
CCR5-delta 32 and Immunity to Smallpox
Now fast forward a few centuries and witness the major smallpox outbreaks that devastate the world. The horrible infections and painful deaths kill more than 3 out of every 10 people infected. Yet, those who inherited the CCR5-delta 32 mutation survive just fine. They are virtually immune to infection.
CCR5-delta 32 and Immunity to HIV
And now, you arrive at the modern day HIV pandemic. Whites who have the CCR5-delta 32 mutation are “virtually immune” to HIV infection. Likewise 20% of Caucasians, or 1 out of every 5, has at least one copy of CCR5-delta32, which offers “some protection” against infection and, “makes the disease less severe if infection occurs”.
CCR5-delta 32 In the Modern World
According to David Brown in “AIDS Resistance Might Be a Legacy of Plague Survival,” in the Dallas Morning News on May 18th, 1998, only 2% of those from Central Asia carry the CCR5-delta 32 mutation, and it is absent in American Indians, Africans, and East Asians.
Think about the ramifications for the United States today. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that ”[a]t some point in their life, approximately 1 in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection, as will 1 in 32 black women.” The CDC goes on to explain, “the estimated rate of new HIV infections among black men was six and a half times as high as that of white men” and “the estimated rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women”.
There are a multitude of causes for that disparity – poverty, education, access to quality health care – but the CCR5-delta 32 mutation continues to provide a sort of built-in redundancy plan against phenotype wipeout for those who survived the Black Death of Europe. Seven hundred years later, it is still changing the world.
That influences who survives, who is born, what priorities matter to elected officials. It seems so arbitrary.
Human empires and entire bloodlines rose and fell, all from this tiny disease carried by fleas and rats, and a minor change in an allele on a handful of peasant’s DNA.
This is precisely why nature favors sexual selection over asexual selection. It is the random mutation caused by mixing a wide variety of genetic material that provides the greatest overall chance of survival.