KOMPAS.com – While scientists around the world are finding out where the corona virus originated, other virologists are still struggling to pursue the origin of other diseases that have also devastated the world, namely smallpox.
The good news, traces of smallpox was finally beginning to appear. Researchers succeeded in finding the DNA of the virus from an extinct type of smallpox which is found in the remains of the archeology of the Viking Age in northern Europe.
The earliest DNA sample was dated 603 BC. These findings also provide genetic evidence that the origins of smallpox had appeared at least 1,400 years earlier than the previous record.
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As quoted from MedicalxpressOn Friday (24/7/2020) an international team of researchers had sequenced the genome of a virus strain found in Viking teeth in all Viking era burial sites in northern Europe.
“We found new smallpox strains in Viking teeth and the genetic structure of smallpox was different from the modern smallpox virus that was eradicated in the 20th century. We know that Vikings traveled to Europe and beyond and they suffer from smallpox. So it is also possible that Vikings spread smallpox,” said Eske Willerslev, the study’s lead researcher.
Furthermore, researchers call the 1,400-year-old genetic information very important, because it teaches us about the evolutionary history of the variola virus that causes smallpox.
In addition, it also increases the knowledge of scientists in the fight against viral diseases that appear in the future.
Because, many ways for viruses to be able to deviate and mutate into strains that are lighter or more dangerous.
“Knowledge from the past can protect us in the future. Mutations can recur and can be transmitted through animals, becoming the start of other zoonoses,” added Barbara Mühlemann, researcher from the University of Cambridge.
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Smallpox spreads from one person to another through a droplet. At least around 300 million people died from this disease in the 20th century.
New smallpox was officially eradicated in 1980 through a global vaccination effort. This is noted as the first human disease that was successfully destroyed.
Historians believe the origins of smallpox may have existed since 10,000 BC, but until now there is no scientific evidence. Research has been published in journals Science, Thursday (07/23/2020).