This is the first time that samples of hepatitis B have ever been found on a mummified body. When the virus was discovered in the liver of a 500 year old child, researchers at Dankook University and Seoul National University invited Hebrew University Prof Spigelman to South Korea to verify the findings.
Spigelman and the Liver Unit at Hadassah University Hospital-Ein Kerem in Jerusalem are now part of an international team to conduct research on the mummies, bringing together experts from Dankook University, Seoul National University and University College London.
Spigelman known for his pioneering studies of ancient diseases (palaeoepidemiology) found on mummified bodies from Hungary to Sudan, in his quest to provide answers to the development of diseases affecting us today, such as tuberculosis, leishmania and influenza. The South Korean mummies are particularly well preserved, and could provide crucial information in the evolution of the hepatitis B virus.
An international killer
Hepatitis B causes liver problems and can lead to liver cancer or liver failure, killing approximately one million people each year.
In South Korea, the need to manage the virus is particularly significant, as twelve percent of the population are hepatitis carriers (compared with a world average of five percent). In China, the virus is one of the leading causes of cancer.
Until recently, no one even knew that mummies existed in Korea. Korea's ancient tradition of ancestor worship and the belief that at death, the soul rises up and the body has to go back to its natural components, without interference by external elements, meant that mummification was in fact anathema in Korean culture. However, with the take-over of the neo-Confucianist Joseon Dynasty in 1392, changes were made to the former Buddhist burial practices.
The burial process involved laying the body on ice for three to thirty days during mourning, placing the body inside an inner and an outer pine coffin, surrounded by the deceased's clothes, and the covering he coffin in a lime soil mixture. "In some cases, this inadvertently resulted in extremely good natural mummification," says Spigelman.
The building boom in South Korea has meant that many cemeteries have had to be relocated. It is this process which led to the discovery of the mummified bodies.
Know your enemy
The researchers intend to study the genome of the 500 year old virus to see if there have been any significant changes over this time. Spigelman asks: "Five hundred years ago, was it hepatitis B? Could it be that later on, it split from 'X' and became A and B? Was it already evolved? That's what we don't know."
"This is a 'know your enemy' expedition to see if we can get information that can help today's - and tomorrow’s - sufferers," says Spigelman. He believes that knowing what a virus did 500 years ago helps us understand what it will do as it continues to evolve, and will ultimately alter the practice of public health officials in combating it.
For further information or for a full copy of the report, contact:
Rebecca Zeffert, Dept. of Media Relations, the Hebrew University, tel: 02-588-1641, cell: 052-551 6692
or Orit Sulitzeanu, Hebrew University spokesperson, tel: 02-5882910, cell: 052-260 8016.
Rebecca Zeffert | Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Biofilm discovery suggests new way to prevent dangerous infections
23.05.2017 | University of Texas at Austin
Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy