Ancient DNA Reveals How a Chicken Virus Evolved to Become Deadlier 

An international team of scientists led by geneticists and disease biologists from the University of Oxford and LMU Munich have used ancient DNA to trace the evolution of Marek's disease virus (MDV). This global pathogen causes fatal infections in unvaccinated chickens and costs the poultry industry over $1 billion per year. The findings, published on December 14, 2023 in Science, show how viruses evolve to become more virulent and could lead to the development of better ways to treat viral infections. The article is titled “Ancient Chicken Remains Reveal the Origins of Virulence in Marek’s Disease Virus.” The team, which includes archaeologists and biologists, recovered and reconstructed ancient MDV sequences from archaeological chickens spanning the past 1,000 years. By comparing viral genomes derived from both modern and ancient birds, they were able to pinpoint the genetic alterations responsible for the increased virulence of the modern virus. 

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