Ancient hepatitis B viruses from the Bronze Age to the Medieval period

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterResearchpeer-review

  • Barbara Mühlemann
  • Terry C. Jones
  • Peter de Barros Damgaard
  • Irina Shevnina
  • Andrey Logvin
  • Emma Usmanova
  • Irina P. Panyushkina
  • Bazartseren Boldgiv
  • Tsevel Bazartseren
  • Kadicha Tashbaeva
  • Victor Merz
  • Nina Lau
  • Vaclav Smrcka
  • Dmitry Voyakin
  • Egor Kitov
  • Andrey Epimakhov
  • Dalia Pokutta
  • Magdolna Vicze
  • T. Douglas Price
  • Vyacheslav Moiseyev
  • Ludovic Antoine Alexandre Orlando
  • Albert D. M. E. Osterhaus
  • Derek J. Smith
  • Dieter Glebe
  • Ron A. M. Fouchier
  • Christian Drosten
  • Karl-Goran Sjögren
  • Kristian Kristiansen
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a major cause of human hepatitis. There is considerable uncertainty about the timescale of its evolution and its association with humans. Here we present 12 full or partial ancient HBV genomes that are between approximately 0.8 and 4.5 thousand years old. The ancient sequences group either within or in a sister relationship with extant human or other ape HBV clades. Generally, the genome properties follow those of modern HBV. The root of the HBV tree is projected to between 8.6 and 20.9 thousand years ago, and we estimate a substitution rate of 8.04 × 10−6–1.51 × 10−5 nucleotide substitutions per site per year. In several cases, the geographical locations of the ancient genotypes do not match present-day distributions. Genotypes that today are typical of Africa and Asia, and a subgenotype from India, are shown to have an early Eurasian presence. The geographical and temporal patterns that we observe in ancient and modern HBV genotypes are compatible with well-documented human migrations during the Bronze and Iron Ages1,2. We provide evidence for the creation of HBV genotype A via recombination, and for a long-term association of modern HBV genotypes with humans, including the discovery of a human genotype that is now extinct. These data expose a complexity of HBV evolution that is not evident when considering modern sequences alone.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number7705
Pages (from-to)418-423
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Author Correction: Ancient hepatitis B viruses from the Bronze Age to the Medieval period

ID: 196906011