The Oldest Virus Ever Found Is a Sexually Transmitted Disease

Yes, you heard right. A virus found in the genetic fragments of several remains in Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland and Russia were shown to have remnants of the STI hepatitis-B, proven to be 4,500 years old.

These are officially the oldest virus fragments ever recorded where the results were published in the Journal of Nature.  The goal of the research was originally purposed around understanding how different groups in the middle ages and Bronze age lived. As a consequence, they came across some ancient DNA where they made the discovery.

Scientists have said of the findings that for the DNA to still be there after 4,500 years the individuals must have been pretty sick. The reason being that the virus had shown to have a high concentration in the blood flow making their way to the most resilient of places in the teeth and bones.

Scientists hope these results will lead to further insight as to how diseases have evolved over time. Even though there are vaccinations available for the hepatitis-B, there is currently no cure for hepatitis-B if contracted, but there are antibodies available which can manage chronic infections.

Of the individuals studied in this project over 10% had some traces of the disease, and in other similar projects have found that over 50% of the remains had oral infections.  An evolutionary geneticist from the University of Copenhagen said of the findings,  “A lot of people were running around with diseases in the past,” he added. “It certainly kind of cracked my romantic picture of the Bronze Age and Iron Age.”

This discovery also proves something else, that we’ve been up to no good for a lot longer than we thought. Sexually transmitted diseases have been around for thousands of years, in fact in medieval times, syphilis and gonorrhea were two of the most prevalent STDs in Europe. One theory suggests that syphilis was spread by crew members who picked up the disease on the voyages led by Christopher Columbus.