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Scientists Recover Oldest Virus Genome of HBV

For the study, appearing in the journal eLife, the team analysed samples from the teeth of 53 skeletons excavated from Neolithic and medieval sites in Germany.

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Scientists have recovered oldest viral genomes of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and found that the deadly virus has been circulating in Europe for at least 7,000 years.
Virus, Representative Image- Pixabay
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Scientists have recovered oldest viral genomes of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and found that the deadly virus has been circulating in Europe for at least 7,000 years.

HBV — one of the most widespread human pathogens — is responsible for the contagious liver disease. Today, it infects approximately 350 million people worldwide and kills more than 600,000 people a year.

However, its origin and evolutionary history remain unclear.

In the study, the researchers not only recovered ancient viral DNA from skeletons but also reconstructed the genomes of three strains of HBV.

While the ancient virus is similar to its modern counterparts, the strains represent a distinct lineage that has likely gone extinct.

It is also more closely related to chimpanzee and gorilla viruses, the findings showed.

“Our results demonstrate that HBV already existed in Europeans 7,000 years ago and that its genomic structure closely resembled that of modern hepatitis B viruses, despite the differences observed,” said lead author Ben Krause-Kyora, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and Kiel University.

“More ancient precursors, intermediates and modern strains of both human and non-human primate HBV strains need to be sequenced to disentangle the complex evolution of this virus,” he added.

Scientists have recovered oldest viral genomes of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and found that the deadly virus has been circulating in Europe for at least 7,000 years.
Scientist recover oldest viral genomes of HBV, Pixabay

For the study, appearing in the journal eLife, the team analysed samples from the teeth of 53 skeletons excavated from Neolithic and medieval sites in Germany.

The remains dated from around 5000 BC to 1200 AD. The researchers screened all samples for viral pathogens and detected ancient HBV in three of the individuals.

Full HBV genomes were recovered from these samples, two of which were from the Neolithic period, dating to about 7,000 and 5,000 years ago, and one from the medieval period. The Neolithic genomes represent the by far oldest virus genomes reconstructed to date.

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Interestingly, the ancient virus genomes appear to represent distinct lineages that have no close relatives today and possibly went extinct.

The two Neolithic genomes, although recovered from individuals that lived 2,000 years apart, were relatively similar to each other in comparison with modern strains, and were in fact more closely related to modern strains of HBV found in Chimpanzees and Gorillas.

In contrast, the medieval HBV genome is more similar to modern strains, but still represents a separate lineage, the researchers said. (IANS)

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EU Regulators Question Online Retailer Amazon’s Data Usage

Seattle-based Amazon had no immediate comment.

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Amazon, online retailer
The Amazon warehouse in San Fernando de Henares is seen during a 3-day walkout to demand better wages and working conditions, on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. VOA

EU regulators are quizzing merchants and others on U.S. online retailer Amazon’s use of their data to discover whether there is a need for action, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Wednesday.

The comments by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager came as the world’s largest online retailer faces calls for more regulatory intervention and even its potential break-up because of its sheer size.

Amazon, online retailer
A member of the media takes pictures of the parabolic antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array) project at the El Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama desert , some 1,730 km (1,074 miles) north of Santiago and 5,000 meters above sea level. VOA

Vestager said the issue was about a company hosting merchants on its site and at the same time competing with these same retailers by using their data for its own sales.

“We are gathering information on the issue and we have sent quite a number of questionnaires to market participants in order to understand this issue in full,” Vestager told a news conference.

Amazon, online retailer
The logo of Amazon, the online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

“These are very early days and we haven’t formally opened a case. We are trying to make sure that we get the full picture.”

Also Read: Europe Suffers From A Severe Measles Outbreak

Seattle-based Amazon had no immediate comment.

Vestager has the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules. (VOA)