The oldest predecessor of the SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses, which caused the outbreak of SARS in 2002-2004 and COVID-19, respectively, existed 21 thousand years ago. This is the conclusion reached by scientists at Oxford University. The results of their research are published in the journal Current Biology.
As noted in the material, it is almost 30 times older than previously thought.
This creates a new perspective for our understanding of the origin of these viruses, and also suggests that in a similar way, a significant revision of the timescales of the evolution of other viruses can be achieved, the article says.
According to scientists, it was 21 thousand years ago that the earliest common ancestor of sarbekoviruses existed.
Experts note that viruses can evolve very quickly, but they must remain adapted to their hosts. This means that the rate of viral evolution depends on the rate of evolution of their vectors.
In the course of research, scientists have developed a new model of the long-term dynamics of changes in viruses, which made it possible not only to calculate the common ancestor of coronaviruses, but also made it possible to reconstruct the evolutionary history of a wider range of RNA and DNA viruses. So, the researchers found that the hepatitis C virus could spread along the earth during the migration of people anatomically similar to the modern inhabitants of Africa. In addition, it became known that hepatitis C had circulated in animal populations half a million years earlier.
Earlier it became known that an outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus was recorded in India. It was first isolated in 1998 in Malaysia. This disease is periodically reported in Asia. The disease is extremely difficult and ends tragically in seven out of 10 cases. Symptoms of the disease are cerebral edema and disruption of the respiratory system.