Surprising success in cancer research by detecting DNA traces in bats?

Does the virus for a rare form of leukemia originally come from bats?
The results of a recent study could lead to a breakthrough in cancer research. Experts discovered that DNA traces of the virus family, which is responsible for a rare type of leukemia, were found in the genomes of bats.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow and the Czech Academy of Sciences found in an investigation that DNA traces of viruses, which can cause a rare type of leukemia, are detectable in the genomes of bats. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study.

Viruses found are between 20 and 45 million years old
The viruses found seem to be between 20 and 45 million years old, the experts explain. The results would show concrete evidence for the first time that the so-called group of delta retroviruses has an ancient origin in mammals. The newly gained knowledge will enable doctors to better understand the properties of viruses in the future.

Around 15 to 20 million people worldwide are infected by the virus
The delta retrovirus group contains so-called T-lymphotrophic viruses. Around 15 to 20 million people worldwide are infected by these viruses, the doctors explain. The infection could cause a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma called adult T cell leukemia / lymphoma (ATLL). However, such an infection is very rare. Most people who carry such a virus will never develop the disease, the experts add.

The exact origins of the viruses were previously unknown
It has long been suspected that the delta retroviruses infected humans before prehistoric times. However, since there were no fossil records of such viruses, their exact origins have so far been a mystery, the researchers say. The discovery of this viral sequence fills the last major void in retrovirus fossil recordings, explains author Dr. Robert Gifford from the University of Glasgow. The sequence provides a means of calibrating the time line of interaction between delta retroviruses and their hosts.

Knowledge enables a better understanding of the defense mechanisms against the viruses
This finding can also be used as a tool to understand the mechanisms that mammals have developed to counter the threat posed by these viruses. The improved understanding of the history of these viruses will help scientists better understand how the viruses affect people and animals today and in the future. The deltaretrovirus group, which contains HTLV-1, can lead to ATLL, the doctors explain.

Residues of the delta retrovirus have been found in minopterids
Dr. Daniel Elleder from the Czech Academy of Sciences identified the remains of a delta retrovirus in the genome of the so-called bent bats. These animals are members of the group of bats known as minopterids. The virus sequence found was apparently integrated into a number of largely related species, the experts explain.

Unusual characteristic discovered
The Prague team worked with Dr. Gifford together to characterize the sequence. The doctors found an unusual and previously inexplicable characteristic of the virus, which is also present in contemporary delta retroviruses. The discovery that this property has defined deltaretroviruses for millions of years makes it clear that it is somehow crucial to the biology of these beings. In the future, this could help scientists to better understand and deal with such viruses.

Long-term connections can be decrypted
The records of the retrovirus fossils consist of DNA sequences that come from old retroviruses and have been preserved in animal genomes, say the doctors. In recent years, studies of these sequences have uncovered the unexpectedly old origins of various retrovirus groups. This enables researchers to better understand the long-term relationship between retroviruses and mammals. (as)

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