Friday, 24 July 2020

Vikings spread smallpox around Europe in the 7th Century

Extinct strains of smallpox have been found in the teeth of Viking skeletons, indicating the disease was widespread in northern Europe during the 7th Century, scientists say.

An international team of researchers analysed the genetic material of the ancient strains and found their structure to differ from the modern smallpox virus which was eradicated in the 20th Century. They say the findings, published in the journal Science, pushes the date of the confirmed existence of smallpox back by 1,000 years.

The researchers believe Vikings may have helped spread the disease, although it is unclear whether these ancient strains were fatal. They say knowing more about the evolutionary history of viruses, such as the deadly smallpox, could help in the battle against new and emerging infectious diseases.

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