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An Asian Experience!

This is not for the first time that the nouvelle Coronavirus has wrecked havoc in the world. A similar deadly virus, seemingly, had an impact (that is somewhat similar) on human civilisation about 25,000 years ago. However, the Pandemic had claimed thousands of lives only in Asia at that period of time. Researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Adelaide have made such a claim while examining the genome sequence of the human body.

Researchers have discovered similarities between the resistance of human bodies to Pandemics thousands of years ago, and the current resistance to the SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) virus. They are of the opinion that Pandemics had triggered an evolution of genes in the human body in the past. According to Researchers, detailed information about evolution could help modern civilisation resist all forms of Coronavirus!

Researchers have claimed that the Coronavirus had raged in the Eastern part of Asia, thousands of years ago. Dr David Enard, a Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, has stressed: “It should make us worry. What is going on right now might be going on for generations and generations.” The lead author of the study added: “It is like finding fossilised dinosaur footprints instead of finding fossilised bones directly. We did not find the ancient virus directly. Instead, we found signatures of the natural selection that it imposed on human genomes at the time of an ancient epidemic.

Dr David Enard

Dr Enard and his colleagues examined the genome sequences of 26 human species before coming to the conclusion. They have carried out research on 2,504 people, and their findings show that the Coronavirus did exist in Asia even 25,000 years ago! The study has been published in various science journals. According to Enard and his associates, when someone gets infected, the Coronavirus virtually occupies all the mechanisms of the cells of that person so that they can replicate those cells. The virus does this by using a variety of proteins present in the human body. Some proteins also help cells fight against the virus.

Researches on genes of people of Eastern Asian descent have revealed that they were familiar with the Coronavirus centuries ago. Researchers tested 420 proteins in the human body, and found that 42 of them were introduced to various forms of the virus at least 5,000 years ago, which means that the Coronavirus had made people suffer for long in the past. Further research is required to find out whether the virus was really SARS-CoV-2. In fact, the researchers made an attempt to estimate how long ago East Asians had adapted to a Coronavirus. They took advantage of the fact that once a dominant version of a gene starts being passed down through the generations, it can gain harmless random mutations. As more time passes, more of those mutations accumulate. Enard and his colleagues found that all the 42 genes had about the same number of mutations. In other words, they had all rapidly evolved at about the same time. “This is a signal we should absolutely not expect by chance,” insisted Enard.

Graphical abstract

There was an outbreak of Coronavirus in China at the end of 2019. It spread throughout the globe in the next few months. It may be noted that SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) had appeared in China in 2002. The SARS, a virus transmitted through droplets that enter the air when someone with the disease coughs, sneezes or talks, had spread worldwide within a few months, although it was quickly contained. About 8,000 people were infected that time, and 850 perished. No known transmission has occurred since 2004. Researchers have opined that it is from there that the Coronavirus originated. Now, various forms of the virus are claiming lives all over the world.

Timing of selection at CoV-VIPs

Meanwhile, Aida Andres, an Evolutionary Geneticist at the University College London, has found the work compelling, although she believes that it is possible yet to make a firm estimate of how long ago the ancient epidemic took place. She said: “I’m quite convinced there’s something there. The timing is a complicated thing. Whether that happened a few thousand years before or after, I personally think it’s something that we cannot be as confident of.

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