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TechCoronavirus epidemics 1st hit over 21,000 years ago: Study

Coronavirus epidemics 1st hit over 21,000 years ago: Study

Published: 5th Sep 2021 3:28 pm

London: The most recent common ancestor of sarbecoviruses the family of coronaviruses to which SARS-CoV belongs existed more than 21,000 years ago, nearly 30 times older than previous estimates.

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The study, published in the journal Current Biology, showed that humanity may have been exposed to sarbecoviruses which has the potential to jump from animals to humans — since the Paleolithic period roughly 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 BC.

Despite having a very rapid rate of evolution over short timescales, to survive, viruses must remain highly adapted to their hosts — this imposes severe restrictions on their freedom to accumulate mutations without reducing their fitness.

While existing evolutionary models have often failed to measure the divergence between virus species over periods — from a few hundred to a few thousands of years — the evolutionary framework developed in this study will enable the reliable estimation of virus divergence across vast timescales, potentially over the entire course of animal and plant evolution.

The model predictions for hepatitis C virus are consistent with the idea that it has circulated for nearly a half a million years.

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