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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.

Also Read: Drug Used For Osteoporosis May Help in Reducing Heart Attack Risk 

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

Myth Of Refugees Transmitting Disease In Europe Busted

The report says refugees and migrants are more affected by depression and anxiety than host populations

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Sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe take shelter in a forest overlooking the neighborhood of Masnana, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco, Sept. 5, 2018. (VOA)

A new report by the World Health Organization disputes a belief that refugees and migrants bring exotic communicable diseases into the European region.

The report is based on evidence from more than 13,000 documents. It provides a snapshot of the health of refugees and migrants who comprise about 10 percent of the nearly 1 billion population in 53 European countries.

The survey finds migrants and refugees are generally in good health, but, due to poor living conditions, they risk falling ill while in transit or while staying in receiving countries. The report says contrary to common perception, the risk of refugees and migrants transmitting communicable diseases to their host population is very low.

WHO
Europe is the only one among WHO’s six regions where HIV is prevalent . VOA

The WHO regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, tells VOA displacement itself makes refugees and migrants more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

“The refugees and migrants who come to Europe, they do not bring any exotic diseases with them, any exotic communicable diseases,” said Jakab. “The diseases that they might have, they are all well-established diseases in Europe. And also, we have very good prevention and control programs for these diseases. This applies both for tuberculosis, but also HIV-AIDS.”

Europe is the only one among WHO’s six regions where HIV is prevalent and increasing, especially in the east. Jakab says a significant proportion of migrants and refugees who are HIV-positive acquire the infection after they arrive in Europe.

Somalia
WHO considers it critically important that European countries provide quality and affordable health care for all refugees and migrants. VOA

The report finds refugees and migrants seem to have fewer noncommunicable diseases on arrival than their host populations; but, it notes the longer they stay in the countries in conditions of poverty, their risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer increases.

Also Read: European Union Agrees To Cut Greenhouse Gases Emission

The report says refugees and migrants are more affected by depression and anxiety than host populations. It says unaccompanied minors are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and suffer from higher rates of depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

WHO considers it critically important that European countries provide quality and affordable health care for all refugees and migrants, regardless of their legal status. Providing universal health coverage, it says, would significantly improve the well-being of both the displaced and host populations. (VOA)