Coronavirus outbreak may have swept east Asia 20,000 years ago, reveals study

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Jun 27, 2021, 12:33 PM(IST)

Graves of people who passed away due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are pictured at the Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil May 20, 2021. Picture taken May 20, 2021 Photograph:( Reuters )

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The coronavirus family also consists of related MERS and SARS viruses. Both of these have caused significant deadly outbreaks in the past 20 years.

A new research has revealed that coronavirus may have swept across East Asia more than 20,000 years ago, leaving traces in the DNA of people in modern China, Japan and Vietnam. 

The research found evidence of genetic adaptation to the coronavirus family of viruses in 42 genes in modern populations in the above regions.

The coronavirus family also consists of related MERS and SARS viruses. Both of these have caused significant deadly outbreaks in the past 20 years.

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In few decades, geneticists have devised powerful tools to uncover genetic traces of historical adaptation events that remain present within the genomes of people living today. These tools are now helping scientists to discover genes that mark adaptations for high-altitude living and the adult consumption of milk. 

As a part of the research, the team applied cutting-edge computational analyses to the genomes of more than 2,500 people from 26 populations around the world. The researchers then signatures of adaptation in 42 different human genes that encode VIPs.

These VIP signals were present in only five populations. All of them came from East Asia. This is how the researchers concluded that the ancestors of modern East Asians were initially exposed to coronaviruses around 25,000 years ago.

After further tests, it was revealed that the 42 VIPs are primarily expressed in the lungs. This is also the tissue most affected by COVID-19 symptoms. The researchers also confirmed that these VIPs interact directly with the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current pandemic.

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