Smallpox virus was found in DNA of Vikings' remains: disease has been walking planet for almost 1.5 thousand years

Smallpox virus was found in DNA of Vikings' remains

The most deadly virus in the world is a smallpox. The archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient burial site. After examining the bone remains, the scientists concluded that the archaeologists had found the skeletons of the Vikings, in whose teeth extinct strains of the smallpox were preserved. Having studied them, the scientists were able for the first time to prove that the smallpox has been tormenting humanity for at least one and a half thousand years.

The terrible virus spread incredibly quickly: it was transmitted by airborne droplets, killing a third of those infected, leaving those who recovered with severe complications, blind or exhausted.

In the 20th century, the smallpox claimed the lives of 300 million people until the vaccine was used in 1980 to stop the disease. Today, an international team of the scientists has succeeded in sequencing the genomes of detected virus strains that were present in the teeth of the ancient Vikings, whose skeletons were discovered in northern Europe.

Professor Eske Villerslev from St John's College at Cambridge University reports that a mass grave of the Vikings was found, it was formed around the 10th century. In the teeth of the dead people were strains of the smallpox. Science knows that at the time of the burial, the Vikings were actively traveling across Europe and beyond it. Just as people who have contracted the coronavirus today spread the infection while traveling the world, so the smallpox followed travelers in the past.

The genetic information extracted from the bone remains is at least 1400 years old. The scientists say it is extremely important as it teaches the evolutionary history of the virus that caused the global epidemic. The World Health Organization launched an eradication program in 1967 that included contact tracing and mass communication campaigns. All public health methods that countries still use to combat the coronavirus pandemic were used.

The historians believe that the smallpox has existed since 10,000 BC. But there was no previous evidence to suggest that the smallpox virus was present until the 17th century. And it is still unknown how the smallpox virus appeared among the humans. The scientists do not exclude that it could have come from animals.