Are You My Mummy? (See, It’s Funny Because This Post is About a Mummified Child… Get It? GET IT?!)

Some people get drunk and sleep with strangers. I get drunk and read about diseased dead things.

…I love me.

Anyway, an Israeli-South Korean scientific team recently discovered a 16th century mummified child with rather intact organs, which enabled them to perform a liver biopsy and genetic analysis on the little mummy. The cool thing about this (you know, beyond the fact that they are performing a fucking liver biopsy on a little guy that’s been dead for, oh, 500 years or so) is that, in that genetic analysis, the team discovered enough DNA sequences to piece together the oldest full viral genome recorded to date- an ancient strain of hepatitis B.

The particular strain of hep B is known as a genotype C2 sequence and is quite common in Southeast Asia. So, our scientists compared this ancient strain to more modern hep B strains. By studying the mutations and changes (due to environmental pressures), the scientists pinpointed the reconstructed strain’s origin at between 3,000 to 100,000 years ago.

That’s one old virus.

Having such an ancient strain of hep B will allow us to study those same mutations and changes, allowing us a deeper look into how viruses evolve. A more thorough understanding of viral adaptation techniques will allow us to better determine how they spread throughout various regions and how they can survive for thousands of years. Knowledge is really power when it comes to battling viruses- the more we know about them, the more opportunities we have to figure out ways to combat and destroy them.

Also… I just can’t get over how fucking cool it is that we were able to extract this kind of genetic information from a 16th century corpse. I know that I am prone to scientific hero worship, but can any of you honestly say that you aren’t just a wee bit geeked over modern genetic research and technology?

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