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The Science published an article on the study of hepatitis B virus evolution in ancient people genes

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) has been contaminating humans for thousands of years, but its pathways, evolution and genetic diversity in the past have not yet been studied.  A large team of researchers jointly with Russian experts (including O.P. Balanovsky, chief researcher of the RCMG Human Population Genetics Laboratory) analyzed HBV genomes isolated from the bone fragments of 137 ancient people living in Eurasia and America from 10,500 to 400 years ago.

Findings were that the common ancestor of all researched HBV strains lived between 20,000 and 12,000 years ago, and that the virus was present in Europe and South America about 10,000 years ago, in geographically distant hunter-gatherer groups. The HBV strains isolated from Mesolithic remnants belonged to two genetic lines. In the Neolithic, these early HBV lineages were replaced by another lineage that spreaded across Eurasia with the migrations of farmers and dominated for 4,000 years. Around 2000 years ago, this lineage virtually disappeared.

Among the modern virus genotypes, only one (genotype G) is a descendant of the HBV Neolithic lineage; its epidemiology is nowadays related to that of HIV.

Samples of the territory of Russia were collected under the supervision of RAS Professor Oleg Pavlovich Balanovsky; he also participated in the data analysis and writing the text of the article.

Kocher A, Papac L, Barquera R, et al.  Ten millennia of hepatitis B virus evolution. Science. 2021 Oct 8;374(6564):182-188. doi: 10.1126/science.abi5658. Epub 2021 Oct 7. PMID: 34618559.

DOI: 10.1126/science.abi5658