Tuesday, 17 May 2016

History of ancient viruses


The global spread of an ancient group of retroviruses that affected about 28 of 50 modern mammals' ancestors some 15 to 30 million years ago has been revealed by a team of scientists.

Retroviruses are abundant in nature and include human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV-1 and -2) and human T-cell leukemia viruses. The scientists' findings on a specific group of these viruses called ERV-Fc, to be published in the journal eLife, show that they affected a wide range of hosts, including species as diverse as carnivores, rodents, and primates.

The distribution of ERV-Fc among these ancient mammals suggests the viruses spread to every continent except Antarctica and Australia, and that they jumped from one species to another more than 20 times.

The study also places the origins of ERV-Fc at least as far back as the beginning of the Oligocene epoch, a period of dramatic global change marked partly by climatic cooling that led to the Ice Ages. Vast expanses of grasslands emerged around this time, along with large mammals as the world's predominate fauna.

For further details see:

William E Diehl, Nirali Patel, Kate Halm, Welkin E Johnson. Tracking interspecies transmission and long-term evolution of an ancient retrovirus using the genomes of modern mammals. eLife, 2016; 5 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.12704



Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle