View Full Version : Viking adaptation to worm infestation linked to lung ailments

08-02-16, 15:19
I'm not quite sure what to make of this one.


Viking Adaptation Predisposes Descendants to Disease

"LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND—An inherited deficiency in alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT) can contribute to the onset of the debilitating illnesses of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. A1AT protects the lungs and liver from enzymes produced by the immune system, but those enzymes, called proteases, are also produced by parasitic worms. Richard Pleass of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and a team of scientists say that deviant forms of A1AT evolved in Viking populations more than 2,000 years ago to combat worm infestations. “Vikings would have eaten contaminated food and parasites would have migrated to various organs, including lungs and liver, where the proteases they released would cause disease,” he said in a press release (http://www.lstmed.ac.uk/news-events/news/from-genes-to-latrines-vikings-and-their-worms-provide-clues-to-emphysema). “Thus these deviant forms of A1AT would have protected Viking populations, who neither smoked tobacco nor lived long lives, from worms. It is only in the last century that modern medicine has allowed human populations to be treated for disease-causing worms. Consequently these deviant forms of A1AT, that once protected people from parasites, are now at liberty to cause emphysema and COPD,” he explained. To read more about Vikings, go to "Vengeance on the Vikings (http://www.archaeology.org/issues/109-1311/features/1421-viking-england-st-brices-daye).""

This is the link to the actual paper:

This is the only reference I saw to Scandinavia in the entire paper.
"The PiZ mutation arose 2,000 years ago in the Viking population of southern Scandinavia53 (http://www.nature.com/articles/srep20509#ref53) that are known to have been heavily parasitized by helminths that reside in the liver54 (http://www.nature.com/articles/srep20509#ref54)."

The linked paper is behind a pay wall, so I don't know how much data there is to prove that this mutation didn't exist before suddenly appearing 2,000 years ago only in southern Scandinavia. Given that for most of human history people have been eating contaminated and spoiled meat you would think all of our ancestors were riddled with worms. A mutation like this would have come in very handy.