NEW YORK, June 26 (Xinhua) -- A new study suggests that an ancient coronavirus epidemic in East Asia has left an imprint on the DNA of today's people, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The new study suggests that about 20,000 years ago, a coronavirus plagued the region and was devastating enough to leave a distinctive mark on the DNA of people alive today, said the report.
Over generations, viruses can cause enormous changes in the human genome, so the researchers of the study have looked for genetic variations in the human genome to reconstruct the history of an array of viruses, according to the report.
There are indications that people in East Asia had adapted to an ancient coronavirus and the researchers estimated "that all of those genes evolved their antiviral mutations sometime between 20,000 and 25,000 years ago," said the report.
While the human genome is changing, the viruses can evolve too, with their proteins developing to overcome a host's defenses, according to the report.
"Over the past 20 years, three coronaviruses have adapted to infect humans and cause severe respiratory disease: Covid-19, SARS and MERS. Studies on each of these coronaviruses indicate that they jumped into our species from bats or other mammals," The New York Times said.