The evidence that hepatitis B has been manifested in humans for centuries has discovered Canadian and Italian scientists who found an ancient strain of the virus in the mummy of a 16th-century child who had been buried in the St. Dementia Basilica of Magdeburg in Naples Italy.
Although the virus counts centuries of life, darkness still covers the origin and evolutionary history of this pathogenic micro-organism, which in our time kills nearly one million people every year.
An earlier study – but not DNA analysis – had led to the erroneous assessment that the unlucky child was infected and died of smallpox. However, as the AMP transmits, the latest research, which made genetic analysis on samples of skin and bone tissues, concluded that the child was suffering from hepatitis B.
The researchers, led by the evolutionary genetician Hendrik Puinar of Ontario’s McMaster University’s Ancient DNA Center, who published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, reported that the hepatitis B virus appears to have changed little over the past 450 years, as it looks very much like today. It is estimated that more than 350 million people live today with a chronic infection with the virus, while about one third of the world’s population is infected at some point in its life.