Researchers were amazed to reveal a mummy which is presumed to change the history of smallpox as specialists know it. They have identified possible evidence like pockmarks which suggested it dated back millenniums ago. A mummified child from the 17th century has demonstrated that it carries the disease in the DNA. The mummy was found buried underneath a church in Lithuania. Scientists predict that the DNA of this carcass may reveal a new perspective on the contagious disease.
- Researchers reveal a child mummy which could change the history of smallpox.
- After DNA testing, they have found signs of a common viral ancestor.
- Colonization and migration might have influenced the spread of disease.
Ana Duggan, who is a postdoctoral student at the McMaster University Ancient DNA Center in Canada, has asserted that there were signs which indicated that 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummies presented pockmarked scars on their skin which suggested cases of smallpox. She is also the primary author of a study which was recently published in the Cell Biology magazine.
She also stated that the new findings left scientists wondering about the information they had previously known from other studies, arguing the delimitation of smallpox’s timeline in humans may be wrong. After conducted several tests, the mummy estimated to date back somewhere between 1643 and 1665. At that time, many Asian and European epidemics became widespread.
The child mummy was discovered in a crypt of the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, Lithuania back in 2015. The child was believed to be 2 or 4 years old when he or she died and was mummified. Apparently, the body did not show explicit sign which could have indicated the disease. Nevertheless, specialists have conducted several types of tests on the DNA of the mummy to determine the variola virus.
This represents the oldest version of the virus which was discovered compared to any scars which could not clearly indicate variola. Scientists have compared the DNA of the child mummy to the versions of the variola virus genome from the mid-1900s. After using some particular techniques which resembled a “molecular clock,” researchers have revealed that both samples contain a common viral ancestor which dated back to the period between 1588 and 1645.
What is more, that period coincides with migrations and explorations that would have fueled the spreading of the disease all over the world. Henrik Poinar, the director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University, asserted that after obtaining another timeline for the illness, researchers need to prove that the first historical evidence of smallpox which was documented to date back to 1500s is, in fact, real.
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