May 17, 2017

An immunity gene evolved in Southeast Asia to protect against leprosy

A mutation in an immune system gene rapidly rose in frequency in Southeast Asia approximately 50,000 years ago because it likely conferred protection against leprosy. The findings show that the gene variant, called HLA-B*46:01, encodes a protein that binds to molecules derived from the bacterium that causes leprosy. This HLS protein then presents these foreign molecules to the immune system, which destroys the infected cells.