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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

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)

Next Story

Apple Watch Series 4 with ECG App Now Available in Europe, Hong Kong

The ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature can alert users to signs of AFib

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smart watch
Comparisons between irregular pulse-detection on Apple Watch and simultaneous electrocardiography patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm has 71 per cent positive predictive value. Pixabay

Apple Watch Series 4 with industry-first features like ECG reading app and irregular rhythm notification will now be available in Europe and Hong Kong.

With watchOS 5.2, customers in 19 European countries including Germany can take an ECG reading with Apple Watch Series 4 at any time.

“All recordings, their associated classifications and any noted symptoms are stored securely in the Health app on iPhone,” Apple said in a statement late Wednesday.

The ECG app enables customers to take an electrocardiogram right from their wrist.

It can capture heart rhythm on demand in a moment when users experience symptoms such as a rapid or skipped heart beat and help provide clinically important data to physicians.

Apple Watch
“New electrodes in Apple Watch Series 4 now enable customers to take an ECG directly from the wrist,” Apple said in a statement on Thursday. Flickr

The irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch occasionally checks heart rhythm in the background and sends a notification if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation (AFib) is identified.

The ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature can alert users to signs of AFib.

“We’ve seen the ECG app and irregular rhythm notifications on Apple Watch have meaningful impact on our customers across the US,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer.

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A recent clinical trial of around 600 participants found that the ECG app on Apple Watch demonstrated 98.3 per cent sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6 per cent specificity in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings, when compared to an ECG administered by a cardiologist.

The irregular rhythm notification feature was recently studied in the Apple Heart Study which found “only 0.5 per cent of participants received irregular pulse notifications, an important finding given concerns about potential over-notification.” (IANS)