20,000 Years Ago, a Coronavirus Epidemic Left Its Mark in Our DNA

A crown of spike-shaped proteins make coronaviruses recognizable when viewed under a microscope. But modern genetic analysis offers another way to find evidence of coronaviruses: detecting the marks the virus leaves behind in the populations it infects.

In a study published on June 24 in the journal Current Biology, researchers analyzed the DNA of thousands of people from around the world from 26 populations to look for signs of ancient coronavirus epidemics. The researchers found that people living in China, Japan and Vietnam faced a coronavirus for about 20,000 years in an epidemic that ended 5,000 years ago…

When coronaviruses infect humans, they rely on the microscopic machinery made by human genes in order to make more virus particles. So the research team focused on a few hundred human genes that interact with coronaviruses—but not other microbes—during an infection…

In five groups of people, 42 of those genes had enough mutations to suggest they had evolved because of an epidemic. The genes may have become better at fighting off the viral infection, or less hospitable for the virus to use to copy itself. People with those mutations would have been more likely to survive an outbreak of the disease, and later, have children with the same genetic mutations.

Science like this makes me wonder about price and availability of a nice secondhand electron microscope. Probably would mess up retirement as much as a regular job. :-]

One thought on “20,000 Years Ago, a Coronavirus Epidemic Left Its Mark in Our DNA

  1. p/s says:

    Scientists Just Discovered The First Known Case Of The Plague In A 5,000-Year-Old Skeleton : These traces of the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which causes the bubonic plague, suggest that the disease emerged in humans more than 2,000 years earlier than previously thought. https://allthatsinteresting.com/bubonic-plague-origin
    In the 14th century, a terrifying disease dubbed the “Black Death” swept through Europe. Spread by fleas, it devastated the continent and killed nearly half the population.
    This new discovery, reported in the journal Cell Reports this week, pushes back the earliest discovery of Y. pestis by well over 1,000 years and suggests the bacteria strain was likely part of a lineage that emerged about 7,000 years ago, over 2,000 years earlier than other studies have previously found.
    “What’s most astonishing is that we can push back the appearance of Y. pestis 2,000 years farther than previously published studies suggested,” Ben Krause-Kyora, senior study author and head of the aDNA Laboratory at the University of Kiel in Germany, said in a statement. “It seems that we are really close to the origin of the bacteria.” https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/worlds-oldest-plague-bacteria-found-in-5000yearold-huntergatherer/

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