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Study of Hepatitis B Virus Tracks Australia's Ancient Migrations

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA—According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report, a new study has found that the hepatitis B virus affecting between 10 and 20 percent of the Aboriginal people living in northern Australia today is a unique strain named HBV/C4. Margaret Littlejohn of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory noted that there are also differences in the virus among the 30 communities that offered samples for testing, which allowed the scientists to study its possible transmission routes, and determine when the virus may have first appeared in Australia. The analysis suggests that HBV/C4 entered Australia some 51,000 years ago through the continent’s “Top End,” in either the East Arnhem region or the Tiwi Islands, then separated into two groups following roughly the same geographic distribution as the two main Aboriginal language groups: the Pama-Nyungan language area in East Arnhem and most of the rest of Australia, and the non-Pama-Nyungan languages spoken in Tiwi, Kimberley, West Arnhem, and the Daly River regions. “The other important thing that we’ve been able to do with this is raise the profile of hepatitis B virus in these communities,” Littlejohn said. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

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