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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)

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More than Half of European Women Diagnosed at a Late Stage of HIV Infection: WHO

More than half of European women with HIV diagnosed late

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WHO
A study by WHO revealed that most of the European women with HIV are diagnosed at a late stage. Wikimedia Commons

More than half of European women, particularly those in their 40s, diagnosed at a late stage of HIV infection when their immune system is already starting to fail, says a new study by WHO, adding that they are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed late than younger women.

According to 2018 data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, women accounted for one-third of the 1,41, 000 new HIV diagnoses in the region, indicating that this population needs more attention in Europe’s prevention and testing efforts.

“Late diagnosis in women indicates that gender-sensitive counselling and testing, including information about sexual health, is not reaching this population. It’s time to end the silence about sexual health, especially when it comes to HIV, and ensure that women are well informed and enabled to protect themselves,” said Piroska Ostlin, WHO Regional Director for Europe ad interim.

“If we are to achieve universal health coverage, we need to improve prevention, treatment and care for women and reduce missed opportunities for testing those vulnerable to HIV in health facilities and in the community,” Ostlin added.

WHO- HIV
The regional director of WHO said that the treatment and care for women with AIDS needs to be improved. Lifetime Stock

The HIV epidemic in the region is driven by a persistent problem with late diagnosis, and this affects 54 per cent of known cases among women, said the study published in the journal Eurosurveillance.

Such proportions of late diagnoses are partly a result of relatively low HIV testing coverage and uptake in the region and are an indication that sexual risks, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, are not being adequately addressed with older adults.

Two-thirds (60 per cent) of the HIV diagnoses among women in 2018 were in the age group 30-49 years old. Heterosexual sex was the most commonly reported HIV transmission mode (92 per cent) among women in the Region.

Countries in central Europe reported almost six times fewer diagnoses among women compared to men in 2018, and three times fewer diagnoses among women than men were reported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

The only exception is the eastern part of the region, where there is a more even distribution between women and men, and where 86 per cent of the almost 50,000 cases among women were reported in 2018.

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“Too many people living with HIV are still not aware of their status. The sooner women and men know of their HIV status, the sooner they can be put on antiretroviral treatment and halt transmission of HIV sexually,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

“We must all ramp up our efforts to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic in order to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Andriukaitis added. (IANS)