the current coronavirus pandemic
is by no means
the first to hit humanity.
of the Australian National University
take a look back in history at a previous
coronavirus pandemic that swept across
East Asia 20,000 years ago...
We found traces of
humanity’s age-old arms race with coronaviruses written in our DNA
Our research, published
in Current Biology, found evidence of genetic adaptation to
the coronavirus family of viruses in 42 genes in modern
populations in these regions.
The coronavirus family
also includes the related MERS and SARS viruses, both of which have
caused significant deadly outbreaks in the past 20 years.
In the 20th century
alone, three variants of the influenza virus each resulted in
wide-ranging outbreaks that killed millions: the "Spanish Flu" of
1918-20, the "Asian Flu" of 1957-58, and the "Hong Kong Flu" of
These adaptations may
have included physiological or immunological changes that improved
resistance to infection or reduced the health impacts of the
These tools have allowed
scientists to discover genes that mark adaptations for high-altitude
living and the adult consumption of milk, among other things.
Besides revealing historical coronavirus outbreaks, this information may hold new insights in the genetic basis of coronavirus infection and how these viruses cause disease in modern humans.
But their simple biological structure means they cannot reproduce independently. Instead, they must invade the cells of other organisms and hijack their molecular machinery.
Viral invasions involve
attaching and interacting with specific proteins produced by the
host cell, which we call viral interacting proteins (VIPs).
We found signatures of
adaptation in 42 different human genes that encode VIPs.
...the likely ancestral homeland of the coronavirus family.
This suggests the ancestors of modern East Asians were initially exposed to coronaviruses around 25,000 years ago. Further testing revealed that the 42 VIPs are primarily expressed in the lungs, which is the tissue most affected by COVID-19 symptoms.
We also confirmed these
VIPs interact directly with the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible
for the current 'pandemic'...
In addition, several VIP
genes are either currently being used as drug targets for COVID-19
treatments or are part of clinical trials for this purpose.
Several of these drugs
have been successfully repurposed, and suggests that others could
potentially be repurposed for COVID-19 treatment.