Is it possible to inherit an immunity to an infectious disease?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Bill Angel, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. Bill Angel
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    Bill Angel Gold Member

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    In the book "Triumph of the City" by Edward Glaeser, who is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University, the author states:

    Is it possible to inherit an immunity to an infectious disease? And if it should happen that a human being through chance genetic mutation has an immune system that makes him less susceptible to some communicable disease, a few centuries isn't long enough time for such an advantageous mutation to spread throughout the population of most of Europe.:cuckoo:

    Someone care to comment?
     
  2. Old Rocks
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  3. Bill Angel
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    Bill Angel Gold Member

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    Thanks for the link. The videos at that site were quite informative. The information in the videos establishes that people who survived the plague in that one English town did so because they possessed a plague resistant version of the CCR5-D32 gene. But I would tend to believe that the majority of residents of England (even considering only the segment of the population that can trace their ancestry back to the time of the Great Plague of 1665) don't possess a plague resistant version of that gene. So while the scientific analysis associated with the circumstances in that one English village of those who survived the plague is excellent, this inherited DNA genetic analysis is not a strong argument for why plague epidemics have not reoccurred in England since the Great Plague of 1665-1666.

    On a more macabre note, here is a photograph I made in Baltimore associated with Halloween that seems apropos to the discussion of the Plague:
    [​IMG]
     
  4. geauxtohell
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    I don't think he meant it like that. I think he was talking about post-birth exposure and, for lack of a better word, natural selection.

    There are certain mutations that make people immune or resistant to certain disease. People who inherit a deficiency in the CXCR5 molecule (a cell surface protein that HIV uses to enter the CD4 cells) are immune to HIV. People who inherit one cop of the sickle cell gene are resistant to malaria, etc.
     
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  5. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    True, otherwise kids wouldnt keep getting the measles every generation if the entire immunity to specific diseases were inherited, would they?
     
  6. Big Black Dog
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    Big Black Dog Gold Member Supporting Member

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    I don't know but I do know that I've never had the mumps, chicken pox or measles. Guess I just got lucky.
     
  7. JimBowie1958
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    Yes, and I never got the mumps either.

    Doc says I was likely exposed to weak amounts of it when my siblings got it and my body developed resistance prior to getting a full exposure.
     
  8. Douger
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    Sure it is. A prime example is hip dysplasia in dogs.
    It can be bred out over time but often is bred IN, due to greed..
    Before ye bleateth ,I do recognize it isn't actually "infectious".
    I was friends with a family whose male members all died by the age of 35 from colo-rectal cancer. Strange.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  9. FurthurBB
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    Yes, it is not only possible to inherit an immunity to an infectious disease, we know about several mutations that do just that. On is the CCR5 Delta 32 mutation is a mutation in the receptor that HIV uses to enter cells and if you inherit two copies of this mutation you are basically immune to HIV. HIV can also use CXCR4, but usually only does that after an infection has been established. Although, there has been a reported case of a person who is homozygous for the CCR5 mutation that tested HIV positive, but he never progressed past the latency phase even after 20 years. Even if you have one allele for the CCR5 Delta 32 mutation, it not only gives some resistance to catching the virus, but if you do it often never progresses out of the latency phase. Since this mutation is mostly seen in European populations or in people with European decent, it could be linked to surviving the black death. It is also believed that Rh- is a mutation that confers immunity to some types of parasitic infections or hemorrhagic fever viruses. MHC molecules are what they type people for before they have organ transplants, they are receptors for T cells and neutrophils. They are transcribed from HLA genes that are highly polymorphic (there are many types of each one). Many different combinations of HLA genes are known to give resistance or immunity to microbial infections. Also combinations of HLA genes can make you more susceptible to microbial infections, autoimmune diseases, and allergies. You must know about sickle cell, which with two alleles is a deadly disease, but one allele confers resistance to malaria and is found in populations where malaria is endemic.

    In answer to your second question, a few centuries is plenty of time to spread a mutation like this if there are endemic microbial infections that give a person with the mutation an exceptional ability to survive compared to ones without the mutation. The CCR5 Delta 32 mutation did not spread to the entire human population, nor have any of the HLA mutations or the sickle cell mutation. Though, you find them heavily in certain populations. All mutations are just chance and often have no effect on the organism until there is a change in the environment. New microbial infections change the environment and in turn a mutation like this that once had no effect or even a harmful effect becomes beneficial.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  10. geauxtohell
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    No. You can't (as far as I know) inherit "antigenic memory" so that your white cells recognize infectious proteins and express antibodies to them. You have to be exposed to them through your own system. That's probably a good thing, as the other side of the immunity sword is autoimmune pathologies.

    Babies get some of their mom's antibodies in colostrum, but that's not the same as being immune.

    Hence, vaccinations.
     

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