A mummified child in Korea, whose organs were relatively well preserved, has generated the description of the oldest viral genome. A biopsy of the mummy's liver reveals a single hepatitis B virus (HBV) known as the C2 sequence genotype, which is said to be common in Southeast Asia.
The first discovery of hepatitis in a Korean mummy was in 2007. The new job will provide more detailed analysis. The research, they announced today, was detailed on May 21 in the scientific journal Hepatology.
The Carbon 14 test made on the mummy's clothing suggest that the boy lived in the 16th century during the Korean Joseon dynasty. The viral sequence of DNA recovered from the liver biopsy allows scientists to create the entire ancient hepatitis B viral genome.
Using modern molecular genetic techniques, researchers compare ancient DNA sequences with contemporary viral genomes revealing clear differences. Changes in the genetic code are believed to be the result of spontaneous mutations and possibly environmental pressures during the process of virus evolution. Based on data from mutations observed over time, the analyzes suggest that the DNA of the mummy's hepatitis B virus originated between 3,000 and 100,000 years ago.
Additional analysis of ancient HBV genomes could be used as models to study the evolution of chronic hepatitis B and help to understand the spread of the virus, possibly from Africa to East Asia. It could also shed light on the Hepatitis B migration pattern to the far east such as China or Japan and Korea as well as other regions in Asia and Australia where it is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The study has been carried out by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Seoul National University and other institutions.
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through the contact with infected body fluids, including from mother to baby, through sexual contact and intravenous drug abuse. There are some 400 million carriers of the virus worldwide, predominantly in Africa, China and South Korea, where 15% of the population carries the virus, according to the World Health Organization.
In recent years, universal immunization of newborns against hepatitis B in Israel and South Korea has led to a massive decline in the incidence of infection.
With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.