Romans Left Conquered Peoples More Prone to HIV
Those in areas ruled by empire less likely to have key gene, scientists find
By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 4, 2008 6:06 PM CDT
The spread of the Roman Empire through Europe may have diluted a gene that helps prevent HIV in its former colonies.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Roman conquest of Europe may explain why populations living in the former empire are more vulnerable to HIV, French researchers say. A genetic variant that protects against the AIDS-causing virus is less prevalent in former Roman colonies such as England, France, Greece, and Spain, though some argue that a larger event like the bubonic plague caused the variation, the BBC reports.

The frequency of the CCR5-delta32 gene is very low in territories long held by Romans, while at the fringe of the old empire it’s higher, becoming greatest in areas never conquered. Some suggest Romans introduced a disease to which people with the gene were susceptible; others believe the gene increased its concentration in areas outside the Roman sphere by protecting against epidemics like the plague.