Monday, April 27, 2009

A Pocket Full of Posies

A pocket full of posies was used to warn others of a plague-infested victim. The posies might not keep you safe from swine flu or the plague, but there is a genetic variant, CCR5 Delta32, which may keep you from dying from the plague. For several years now geneticists have been studying the Delta32 variant. It is now known that if you have Delta32 you probably won’t die of the plague, if you have double Delta32 you may not even get sick. About 14% of Europeans and North Americans have the gene variant. The variant has 32 DNA base pairs missing, which causes the plague bacillus from binding to the receptor on white blood cells’ CCR5 protein coating.

One of my ancestors who may have had the Delta32 variant was George Iddenden (Eddenden) whose son Edmund Edenden settled in Boston/Charlestown, MA. When the plague struck Cranbrook, Kent, England in 1597, George’s first wife and three daughters and possibly a fourth daughter all died of the plague. Leaving everyone else in his house dead from the plague and yet George survives, giving the possibility that George may have had Delta32.
The following records were extracted from the Cranbrook parish records:

BAP Martha dof George Iddenden 9 Aug 1590
BAP Sara dof George Iddenden 24 Dec 1592
BAP Hester dof George Iddenden 20 Apr 1595
BAP Elizabeth dof George Iddenden 1 Aug 1596
BUR Sara wof George Iddenden 31 Jul 1597 plague
BUR Elizabeth dof George Iddenden 15 Aug 1597 plague
BUR Martha dof George Iddenden 16 Aug 1597 plague
BUR Sara dof George Iddenden 31 Aug 1597 plague

As you can see above, the plague struck hard in Cranbrook in the late summer of 1597. George survived, remarried and had an additional four more children.

I don’t even know if I inherited Delta32. The standard DNA test doesn’t give you that information. Delta32 will probably not protect against the swine flu pandemic, because it is a virus, while the bubonic plague is bacterial.

"Bring out your dead!"-Monty Python

Reference: Cranbrook PR FHL-ENG#1473753

Word of the Week:
Hoke = Hole

1 comment:

Marge said...

If you have delta-32 (as I do), it does confer immunity from some viruses - HIV and smallpox for instance. I don't know about influenza, I'm still trying to find out if anyone has done any studies. People with the Delta-32 mutation are actually at higher risk of succumbing to one particular disease, West Nile Virus.

My ancestors were from Eyam in Derbyshire, and my delta-32 mutation was found when doctors tried to inoculate my against smallpox - it didn't work.