Human Hepatitis B virus traces found in the Bronze Age by Researchers

July 16, 2018  Source: News Medical 106

Researchers from South Ural State University (SUSU) found that man has been suffering from Hepatitis B since the Bronze Age with the help of viral traces in the genomes of ancient people. To understand how some of the ancient diseases spread and to find out how they might behave in the future, an international collaboration between researchers had been analyzing DNA of the relics of ancient people found in areas from Mongolia to Europe for several years.

"We were able to digitize genomes of 50 people, and now we're just beginning a detailed study of this series - one of the most robust for the Eurasian Bronze Age. We got lucky that the DNA was very well-preserved - it wasn't destroyed by natural processes after being buried. Now, before us is a lot of interesting work. Our future plans are related to analysis of the data we've already obtained," says Andrey Epimakhov, Doctor of Sciences (History), head researcher of the SUSU Research and Education Center for Eurasian Studies, head researcher of the UrO RAS Institute of History and Archaeology.

Andrey Epimakhov co-authored the article "Ancient Hepatitis B Viruses from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages" in the journal Nature (May 2018).

In 12 out of 137 genomes that were studied, the international team of researchers discovered evident signs of the presence of the Hepatitis B virus. They were able to trace the origin of these 12 people to various parts of Eurasia, the age of their remains being 800 to 4500 years old. Moreover, the human Hepatitis B virus could be even older than 4500 years, as per some molecular genetic characteristics. The genomes of viral variations can be compared and the fact can be determined that the history of human Hepatitis B commenced quite earlier.

By Ddu