New research at Glasgow University casts doubt over the supposed link
between the Black Death and a resistance to the HIV virus found in
Professors Sam Cohn (Medieval History) and Lawrence Weaver (Developmental
Medicine), writing in the latest issue of Quarterly Journal of Medicine,
reveal what they describes as the ‘absurdity’ of the theory
that the Black Death was the trigger of an HIV-resistant gene. The
findings are especially unequivocal if, as the scientists who have
previously claimed a connection assume, the subtropical disease, Yersinia
pestis was the Black Death's agent.
“ Black Death and AIDS are global pandemics that have
captured the popular imagination, both attracting extravagant hypotheses
account for their origins and geographical distributions. Medical
scientists have recently attempted to connect these two great pandemics.
geography of the Black Death and the distribution of the HIV-resistant
gene hardly match,”
explained Professor Sam Cohn.
Black Death was not limited to Europe, but instead originated outside
it and was probably even more devastating in non-European places
such as the Middle East and southern Asia.
_ In addition, the
geographical gradient of the Black Death and its subsequent strikes
through the Early Modern Period flowed in the
very opposite direction from rates of the HIV-resistant gene now seen
in European descendents: while this gene is most prevalent in the far
north of Europe and almost absent in southern Greece and Italy, the
Black Death scored its highest mortalities in the southern Mediterranean
and failed to reach the Highlands of Scotland or Finland until the
early modern period. ”
In the 1990s, geneticists and other health scientists speculated that
the catastrophic Black Death of 1348 set in motion a genetic change
that bestowed a resistance to HIV-1 on some Europeans but to no others
across the world. Some scientists over the past decade have continued
to repeat this spectacular connection in scientific journals, and periodically
the claims have appeared in the serious press as scientific fact.
Professors Sam Cohn and Lawrence Weaver’s findings, refuting
the connection between the Black Death and resistance to HIV, demonstrate
the value of collaborative work between scientists and historians.