INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – According to scientists, over 20,000 years ago a coronavirus epidemic took place in east Asia.
They say the virus still has an impact on the population today.
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A new study published in Current Biology says the viral outbreak lasted over a century, taking millions of lives. But many survived as a result of having a genetic predisposition to fight off the virus while others did not, meaning some people had an innate ability to either promote or prevent viral replication.
So what does this have to do with COVID-19 in these current times?
“I think there is a warning here in our ancient history, ” Dr. Amy Beth Kressel, an infectious disease specialist at Eskenazi Health, said. “Twenty-thousand years ago, there was something very similar that did not get mild. It caused a lot of people to die. But the survivors had specific genes that we can still see today that protected them.”
According to Kressel, this is a perfect example of survival of the fittest driving evolutionary change. The ancient outbreak permanently changed a population. However, she says the virus itself did not change the population’s genetic makeup. Rather, it showed how genetics played a role when it came to surviving a coronavirus epidemic 20,000 years ago.
Authors of the study stress knowing the history can help lead to better treatments in the future.