Saturday, 11 June 2016

Tracking Your Travel History Thanks To Viruses

Researchers think it is possible to track the global movements of an individual by examining the viral load of people.
This is possible, a new study indicates, through the characterisation of the genomes of two different strains of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (the virus responsible for cold sores). The reason for selecting this virus is because the majority of the population carry it (the virus is commonly passed on from mother to child).
Penn State University virologists noted that there are two variants of herpes simplex virus type 1: a European/North American variety and an Asian variety. People in the U.S. carry one or both. For those who have both variants, the original source has been traced to the Korean War. Here, during the 1950s, many U.S. service personnel spent time in the war between what is now North and South Korea.
On a deeper level, with the European/North American variety of the virus, it is possible to track personal strains and thus determine a person’s origins. Extending this, it could be that two individuals who have identical strains of herpes simplex virus type 1 are more likely to be related compared with two people who have different viral strains.
This has led the scientists to speculate that a person’s life history could be charted, using molecular level methods, for a range of different commonly carried viruses.
The human virome is increasingly regarded as a very complex biological entity. The human virome is the term for the collection of all the viruses in the human body. Every human being has a unique virome with a unique balance of species that can change quickly; these are affected by geography and lifestyle.
The research is published in the journal Virology, in a paper titled “Viral forensic genomics reveals the relatedness of classic herpes simplex virus strains KOS, KOS63, and KOS79.”

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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