(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the Eugenio Medea Scientific Institute and the University of Milan in Italy have established when humanity first encountered smallpox.
The study found that the virus began circulating among humans 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to Microbial Genomics.
The authors of the new scientific work suggested that smallpox existed long before the Viking Age. So, on some ancient Egyptian mummies, suspicious scars have been preserved, reminiscent of the consequences of this disease.
Such marks are, in particular, on the body of Pharaoh Ramses V, who died in 1157 BC. But they still cannot be considered irrefutable evidence of smallpox.
To trace the evolution of the virus, the scientists compared the genomes of historical and modern smallpox strains.
The results showed that they all descended from one common ancestor, which appeared 3800 years ago. Consequently, the inhabitants of ancient Egypt may well have suffered from smallpox epidemics.
“This supports the historical hypothesis that smallpox existed in ancient societies,” said study lead author Dr. Diego Forni.
The study helped not only to reconstruct the history of smallpox, but also to better understand the mechanisms of virus evolution. These data are important for the analysis and forecasts of future pandemics.
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