Ancient Mummy’s DNA Confirms Existence of Hepatitis B over Centuries

Editorials News | Jan-11-2018

Ancient Mummy’s DNA Confirms Existence of Hepatitis B over Centuries

A recent research conducted at the McMaster University, has confirmed the existence of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) in humans over centuries.

During the research, the scientists observed the genomic data extracted from the mummified remains of a small child buried in the Basilica of Saint Domenico Maggiore in Naples, Italy. They sequenced the complete genome using advanced sequencing techniques. Previous scientific analysis of the 16th century remains of the small child, did not involve DNA testing. It suggested that the child was infected with Variola virus, or smallpox. The present day analysis revealed that the child was actually infected by Hepatitis B virus (HBV) which is a complex and deadly pathogen that today kills nearly one million people every year. It is observed that a child infected from HBV infections develops facial rashes, known as Gianotti-Crosti syndrome. These rashes might have been misidentified as smallpox. This suggests the trickiness of identifying infectious disease in the past. The scientists found that over 450 years, this ancient strain of HBV has changed very little. The evolution of the HBV is complex. It is so because there is no measurable rate of evolution throughout the 450-year period which separates the mummy sample from modern samples. As suggested by some estimates, more than 350 million people living today, have chronic HBV infections, whereas approximately one-third of the global population has been infected at some point in their lives. This study shall widely contribute in understanding that how the modern pathogens work and spread.

By: Anuja Arora