The prof. Kirill Alexandrov, of the CSIRO-QUT Synthetic Biology Alliance, is part of a research team from the Universities of Arizona, San Francisco, and Adelaide, which has discovered how a coronavirus epidemic has been the protagonist in Asia for more than 20,000 years. . The results of the study were then published in the journal Current Biology.
In the past 20 years, there have been three serious coronavirus outbreaks: SARS-CoV which led to the severe acute respiratory syndrome, which originated in China in 2002 and claimed over 800 deaths; the MERS-CoV in 2012 which led to the death of over 850 with the Middle East respiratory syndrome, and finally the SARS-CoV-2 which led to the COVID-19 syndrome with over 3.8 million victims.
The current study on the evolution of the human genome has revealed, however, that another large outbreak of coronavirus has flared up well 20,000 years ago. In fact, the modern human genome contains evolutionary information that dates back to tens of thousands of years ago, as when studying the rings of a tree we are given indications on the environment in which it grew.
In the study, the researchers used data from the 1000 Genomes Project, the largest public catalog of human genetic variations, and examined changes in genes that code for proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2.
They then synthesized both human and virus proteins, without using living cells, and demonstrated that these interacted directly, then indicating how the mechanism used by coronaviruses for cell invasion was specifically preserved.
The professor. Alexandrov said, ” The team’s computational scientists applied evolutionary analysis to the human genomic dataset, and then found evidence that the ancestors of populations in East Asia experienced an epidemic of a similar coronavirus-induced disease. to COVID-19 “.
The study also showed that during this epidemic (which affected areas where China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Taiwan now exist) natural selection favored pathogenesis-related variants of human genes with adaptive changes that presumably have led to less severe disease.
Alexandrov finally concluded: ” The results of this research have a very important value since they will allow us to compile a list of potentially dangerous viruses and then develop diagnoses, vaccines, and drugs in case of their return “.