Archaeogeneticist Guevara Evelyn

85000 €

Persistence and evolution of ancient DNA viruses in the Americas

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kaksivuotinen

It is known that several DNA viruses persist in the body years or even decades after primary infection. Although this finding is of great relevance to explore the record of viral infections in an individual, it was not until recently that studies of viral evolution acquired a whole new dimension by incorporating ancient viral genomes of great antiquity. In a global context, novel DNA viral sequences from the Americas are non-existent, which does not allow to obtain a comprehensive picture of the whole diversity and handicaps the interpretation of the directionality of the viral infections. For instance, one interesting hypothesis to evaluate is whether certain viruses, e.g. variola, existed in the Americas prior to European colonization and the evolutionary trajectories of viruses before and after transatlantic contact. We aim to understand the origin, adaptation and evolution of DNA viruses by analyzing ancient genomes from a 900-year transect (700 – 1600 CE) which includes ~100 samples from both pre- and post-Columbian Peru, while including also worldwide reference datasets from published sources. We will utilize cutting-edge NGS technologies and computational methods to assure the authenticity of the ancient genetic material. Phylogenetic reconstructions of novel and published viral strains will be carried out with various tools freely available online. During this two-year project we aim to produce at least two scientific articles related to topics on ancient virus persistence and virus evolution. Since no ancient viral genomes from the Americas exist in the literature, this research also aims to fill in this gap and as such it is a bold initiative that will draw great interest from the scientific community and the general public alike. Our local and international collaborators are top scientists in the fields of ancient human DNA and ancient viruses, which will guarantee the success of the project and the quality of the results.