Sunday July 21, 2019

Scientists discover Genetic Evidence of Smallpox from remains of 17th-century Mummy found in Crypt beneath a Lithuanian Church

Widespread vaccination eliminated smallpox or variola virus as a human scourge in 1977

FILE -Smallpox virus, VOA

Dec 9, 2016: Scientists have discovered genetic evidence of smallpox from the remains of a 17th-century mummy found in a crypt beneath a Lithuanian church. The early DNA provides a timeline of the highly infectious disease that was finally eradicated in the 20th century.

The mummy is of the lower half of a child. Samples of the mummy’s skin were taken by Canadian and Australian researchers, who were then able to reconstruct the decomposing genome of the virus.

The mummified child, one of several bodies found in the 400-year-old crypt, provides the first conclusive evidence of smallpox in humans.

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Before the discovery, it was thought that the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses V, was the earliest example of smallpox because of what scientists assumed were pox marks found on the remains. But it is so far been impossible to get DNA from a 3,000- to 4,000-year-old mummy.

The child’s body had no such scarring, so the discovery surprised Hendrik Poinar, Director of the Ancient DNA Center at McMaster University in Ontario.

“We were using these mummies as a good test to looking back in time for the potential sort of deep time travel with viruses,” he said. “And so we tried to pull out all the viruses and we looked at the reads that we found and, lo and behold, there was variola – some reads of variola – and we thought, ‘Oh, that can’t be.’”

Two strains of smallpox

Widespread vaccination eliminated smallpox or variola virus as a human scourge in 1977.

By reconstructing the 17th century DNA and comparing it to genomes dating to the mid-1900s and genetic material before variola’s eradication in the 1970s, the scientists concluded the samples shared a common viral ancestor that originated between 1588 and 1645.

In addition to providing a timeline of smallpox, scientists believe they have pinpointed its evolution. They think two strains branched off from a common ancestor around the time that a variola vaccine was created in the 1800s by Edward Jenner. They suggest the vaccine caused pressure on the smallpox virus, leading to mutations that separated it into two strains, variola major and variola minor. One caused more severe disease than the other.

The time period when the strains branched apart, according to Poinar, coincides in history with human exploration, migration and colonization, activities that would have caused smallpox to spread around the world.

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Even though smallpox has been eradicated and is no longer a health threat, Poinar thinks it’s important to have a timeline for diseases to see how they evolve and progress, something that could be important for treatment and eradication.

“I don’t think these sorts of studies are navel gazing exercises,” said Poinar. “I think they can shed important light on the evolutionary tempo and mode of these infectious agents, and I think that’s important to understand.”

The findings reveal that the smallpox virus is most closely related to variola virus in camels and gerbils, although researchers don’t know specifically what animal the human version came from.

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Poinar and colleagues had to obtain permission to conduct their work from the World Health Organization because of concerns that the research could reawaken the virus, something Poinar said degraded DNA from a mummified child could not do.

The discovery was published in the Cell press journal Current Biology. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

cryptocurrency. google
Google comes up with a new feature

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?