Wacky Russian News
I've seen this english.pravda.ru
article pop on a few bulletin boards, and it's dated Friday, July 22nd. It chronicles the discovery by a team led by Vladimir Baranov of the Ott Prenatal Diagnostics Laboratory of the prevalence of a gene among Russians which confers resistance to HIV. I'm sort of habitually interested in population genomics and tried to find the original paper on Google Scholar. The weird thing is, the only article by Baranov I can find on the subject is from 1997
. Indeed, it seems like a fairly old and non-news-worthy result. And this 2002 pdf
reviews the geographic distribution of the relevant gene over the entire Old world. (And yes, Africa and South and East Asia are almost completely lacking in it.)
So I realize this might be news---why does this happen to me so often with english.pravda.ru stories?!---but it's still pretty interesting. The mutation seems to have no natural selection bias. It seems like it just happened, and the lucky folks are the ones who happen to be descendants of the original mutant. I always assumed the disproportionate impact of AIDS in Africa was because it got it first and is so incredibly poor, but apparently genetics is also a factor. Unfortunately it's the kind of gene that governs a structural protein (a receptor on immune cells that the HIV virus latches onto) and not a secretion protein, so feeding people copies of the better protein won't really help. Still, I'm sure people are going to come up with some way of exploiting it.