The world has seen several outbreaks in the last 20 years and even 50 to 100 years ago. But millennia ago? And to be more specific, a similar coronavirus epidemic 20,000 years ago? Sounds hard to believe but the recent studies say it is true.
According to a recent journal published in Current Biology, “a research team from Australia and the United States have found ground-breaking evidence that a coronavirus epidemic broke out over 20,000 years ago in East Asia.”
To find out this, researchers claimed they studied over 2,500 people from 26 different countries all over the world. They further said that “The coronavirus that interacted with the genome left clear imprints on the genes that it can be seen in their offsprings even today in East Asia‘’.
“Viruses create copies of themselves but they do not have their own tools to do it. So, they depend on hosts like the human bodies to create their own copies. Then they hijack the cells in the body to create copies of themselves.”
This hijacking of human cells has helped us track the epidemic that was caused millennia ago as even today’s descendants show the genes that clearly state their ancestors being exposed to this and adapting to the coronaviruses.
During the research, the evidence of coronaviruses was found in people living in China, Japan, and Vietnam. They also believe that it may have spread to other countries but with no tracking found in their cells, it is almost impossible to find out now.
“With such exposure to the virus leaves a very clear marking in the genomes even after a very long time in their descendants,” said a researcher. “And this is the signature method which we used to detect any epidemic that occurred ages ago.”
With this study, the researchers found out that the coronavirus plague occurred separately in different regions and spread across East Asia becoming an epidemic.
However, scientists couldn’t find out how ancient people survived this epidemic, because it wasn’t clear whether it was something as common and seasonal as flu, or spreads like the COVID-19 pandemic.