Science Interviews

Interview

Fri, 8th Jun 2012

Mummy provides virus clues

Safia Danovi

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Tackling neurodegenerative diseases

Kat - And I spotted a really nice story. They've looked at the mummy of a 16th century Korean child and manage to not only extract preserved organ tissue from its liver. They have actually managed to sequence hepatitis B virus from this child’s liver from 500 years ago. This blows my mind.

Safia - I know and I actually – reading this, this was a study that was done by Israeli and Korean researchers, it was published in Hepatology. I couldn’t believe how ancient this virus actually is. So, the authors estimate that the virus has its origin between 3,000 to 100,000 years ago which is incredible.

Kat - That's a pretty big margin of error though.

Safia - I know but it’s stlll ancient. I mean, the other thing I hadn’t realised what a significant health problem, hepatitis B was - there are 400 million carriers worldwide. And I guess what they're hoping is that the sequencing of this great ancient virus might offer some insights as to what makes the virus dangerous and where it might, how it might evolve in the future. The study used a sample from a boy who lived around the 16th century. It’s just remarkable that they have access to technology that gives us such an insight into this boy’s life. And actually, I really want to know more about the boy. I want to know how he died and how old he was, and makes me wonder what his life was like back then.

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