The recent Covid-19 pandemic which caused the world to lockdown for over a year may not be humanity’s first fight against coronavirus.
According to a new study from Australian National University discovered that coronavirus left a sort of historical marker in human genomes.
‘Coronavirus’ is an umbrella term which covers COVID-19, SARS and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome and have been around for a lot longer than the recent pandemic.
During the study, the academics examined the genomes of more than 2,500 people from 26 countries.
The study said: “The current severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has emphasized the vulnerability of human populations to novel viral pressures, despite the vast array of epidemiological and biomedical tools now available.
“Notably, modern human genomes contain evolutionary information tracing back tens of thousands of years, which may help identify the viruses that have impacted our ancestors—pointing to which viruses have future pandemic potential.
“By learning more about our ancient viral foes, our study highlights the promise of evolutionary information to better predict the pandemics of the future.”
The researchers found evidence within the sample of genomes that coronavirus had been present, forcing the genes themselves to adapt.
Indication that genes had been forced to adapt after coming into contact with coronaviruses were found in five populations, all from East Asia.
This suggests that ancestors of modern-day people in East Asia were first exposed to the disease around 25,000 years ago, according to the study.
The findings are, however, limited to East Asia.
Yassine Soulimi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Adelaide said: “When we compared them to populations around the world, we couldn’t find the signal."
The research was published last week in the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Current Biology.”
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The study was titled 'an ancient viral epidemic involving host coronavirus interacting genes more than 20,000 years ago in East Asia'.
This study could lead to discovery of a lifesaving mutation within genomes that would allow scientists to dissect proteins to isolate the mutation.
Viruses can evolve too, though, and the change in rates of mutation was what fuelled the battle to find the vaccine for Covid-19.
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