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Vikings unveil oldest genetic evidence of smallpox virus

The skin marks observed on the mummy of Ramses V, who died in 1757 BC, suggest that ancient Egypt may have been a region where the smallpox

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The skin marks observed on the mummy of Ramses V, who died in 1757 BC, suggest that ancient Egypt may have been a region where the smallpox virus (Variola major virus or VARV) was already circulating . But despite these observations and written records, this age is not yet proven.

Until now, the oldest genetic reference to this virus dates back to the 17th century, a period to which a Lithuanian mummy belongs, from which a genomic sequence of the virus was isolated. However, both the origin and evolution of the virus, which alone caused between 300 and 500 million deaths worldwide, remain a mystery.

New research, now published in the journal Science, provides evidence about 1,000 years older than it was, thanks to the sequencing of the virus genome in 11 individuals who lived during the Viking age (between the years 600 and 1000) to the north Europe. The work has also allowed the almost complete reconstruction of the virus genome in four of them from human teeth and bones.

“Smallpox was already widely circulating in 600 in that region and, therefore, in the rest of the continent. This refutes claims that the virus was only introduced and endemic after medieval times, ”says Martin Sikora , professor at the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and lead author of the study.

In the 20th century, the disease – with a mortality of more than 30% – became one of the most virulent and devastating in history, but it was the first and only one to be eliminated in the entire human population, as certified by the Organization. World Health Organization ( wHO ) in 1980. However, those last pandemic strains that circulated during the last century genetically different from those that have now been found in the .

“The virus that circulated during the Viking era was genetically quite different from the last pandemic strains of the 20th century. These were divided about 1,700 years ago and then died out sometime after the Viking era, “continues Sikora.

According to Antonio Alcamí , a researcher at the CSIC Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center and the Autonomous University of Madrid, who publishes an article in perspective on this research in the journal, the strain that has been sequenced disappeared and did not arrive to this day. “The one that arrived was another,” he told SINC.

Reconstructing the evolution of the virus

The VARV lineages found in the Vikings represent a diverse, now extinct, brother clade of the modern . It may have spread to northern Europe for centuries before becoming the highly virulent and deadly strain of the past century. “The virus that causes smallpox existed in a very different way, at least genetically, for a period of more than 400 years,” says Terry Jones , a researcher at the Center for Pathogen Evolution in the University’s Department of Zoology. from Cambridge.

Scientists assume that the virus arose in an animal, specifically a rodent, and that it possibly passed through an intermediate animal, such as a cow, to humans. “It is not known where this happened or when. The virus may have been transmitted to humans many times, without sustained transmission between them. That is what is happening now with monkeypox, as seen in a dozen countries in central and western Africa, “says Jones.

The study makes it possible to track the genetic changes that have occurred during the evolution of the virus, from a common ancestor with the closest animal strains and after the division of the strains in the Viking era. “This information tells us how the virus has adapted to humans at the molecular level during its history, and therefore also why it could have become so virulent,” Sikora said.

Variola major virus was not only very virulent, but also lost 29 genes compared to an ancient virus. Between 600 and 1000, however, the virus had only lost half. With this finding, a “unique phenomenon” is observed in virology. “The virus has not only maintained its virulence, but has lost a lot of genes. In the case of the viruses sequenced now, they have lost half of the genes, and this suggests that at that time the virus was halfway between something that had all the genes and the virus of the 20th century ”, explains Alcamí.

Lessons learned for SARS-CoV-2

This study reveals certain similarities with SARS-CoV-2 , the virus responsible for the current pandemic. Epidemics of diseases caused by animal zoonoses have affected human populations much earlier than previously thought. “The current coronavirus outbreak is just another example of this,” Sikora told SINC. Virologists have been saying for many years “that we should be alert to the possibility of zoonoses and that more should be invested in surveillance,” warns the researcher.

“We know that there are a variety of potentially dangerous viruses in animals that humans often come into contact with (smallpox rodents, coronavirus bats; or intermediate animals). Current findings delve into the importance of surveillance and search for reservoir species, ”says Jones.

The researcher again gives an example of monkey pox: “It is clearly dangerous, it can jump on humans, but we still don’t know what species it comes from!” Their findings now published in Science emphasize what virologists have been saying for many years; “That we must be attentive to the possibility of zoonosis and that more should be invested in surveillance”, alerts the researcher.

On the other hand, according to Alcamí, when a virus jumps from an animal to the human being, it is very common that it is very virulent from the first moment, as has been observed in other diseases such as Ebola or COVID-19 . “This occurs because the pathogen has not become accustomed to the human immune system and does not know how to manage the situation,” he says.

However, for the expert “it is transmission that dictates the future of a virus, rather than virulence or attenuation.” In short, based on the known case of the smallpox virus – which has not lost its virulence over the years -, the expert assures that “it is not certain that a virus like SARS-CoV-2 will be attenuated. It is necessary to be vigilant ”, he concludes.

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Taapsee Pannu, Riteish Deshmukh React to Bombay HC’s ‘Groping Without Skin Contact Is Not Sexual Assault’ Verdict

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Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, in a judgement passed on January 19 said that if a person is groping a child without any ‘skin to skin’ contact, then it will not be considered as an act of sexual assault as defined under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The verdict left many in shock where celebrities like Taapsee Pannu, Riteish Deshmukh took to social media to react to the decision taken by the court. ‘Skin to Skin Contact With Sexual Intent’ Must be There And Mere Groping Would Not Amount to Sexual Assault, Rules Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court.



Taapsee shared a post with a news headline that mentioned the ‘skin to skin’ statement and said she had no words to describe how she feels about this decision. A few hours later, she tweeted again putting the hashtag #NationalGirlChildDay2021 in her message and said this is what she has to say about the whole incident. Yesterday marked the National Girl Child Day and Taapsee made sure she used it to make it clear how she feels about the verdict.




Ritesh Deshmukh also shared the same post and asked netizens if it was fake news. Director Onir also tweeted a long message expressing his anger towards Bombay HC’s decision. He even tweeted saying, “#BombayHighCourt owes an apology to all children and CSA survivors. This is so disturbing.” Shibani Dandekar, Raghu Ram also condemned the decision through social media posts. Kangana Ranaut and Sister Rangoli Chandel Get Interim Relief by Bombay HC in Sedition Case Until January 25.




Shibani Dandekar’s Post (Photo Credit: Instagram)

The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court passed the order while hearing a petition by Satish. The man has been convicted by a local court under Sections 354, 363 and 342 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Back in December 2016, the accused had taken the minor victim to his house in Nagpur on the pretence of giving her something to eat. He then grabbed her breasts and attempted to remove her clothes.

“The appellant/ accused is convicted for the offence of ‘sexual assault’. As per the definition of ‘sexual assault’, a ‘physical contact with sexual intent without penetration’ is an essential ingredient of the offence. The act of pressing of the breast of the child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault’. It would certainly fall within the definition of the offence under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code,” read the court order. Let us tell you that section 354 necessitates a minimum sentence of imprisonment for one year while sexual assault under the POCSO Act causes minimum imprisonment of three years.

(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Jan 25, 2021 03:07 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).

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Raashi Khanna’s Gingerbread Red Pyjama Set Is Chic AF and Affordable Too!

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This year could well be declared as the year of pyjamas! Rounding out the year and ringing in a festive cheer with a red PJ set from the homegrown label of Playful Trails. The gingerbread man printed set was all kinds of chic, cozy and comfortable with two snowy trees in the background. A stunner that she is, Raashi debuted with Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Cafe in 2013. Thereon, she transitioned down South into the Telugu and Tamil film industry. On the fashion front, Raashi is counted amongst the sartorial stunners who maintains a fine temperament of chic styles from home labels and international ones as a staple in her versatile arsenal. She further ups it with a brilliant beauty and hair game.



This Christmas themed photoshoot was lensed by Smarita Vinnakota and styled by Nithisha Sriram. Here’s a closer look. Raashi Khanna Gives Us the Perfect Wedding Chic Vibe to Flaunt!




Raashi Khanna – Gingerbread Red

Raashi sported super soft cotton pajamas featuring gingerbread man print by Playfultrails worth Rs.1,799. Sleek hair and subtle makeup accompanied. Raashi Khanna, Being a Rainbow to the Rain Kissed Skies!

Raashi Khanna




Raashi Khanna (Photo Credits: Instagram)

On the professional front, Raashi was last seen in World Famous Lover with Vijay Deverakonda, Aishwarya Rajesh, Catherine Tresa and Izabelle Leite. She will be seen  in the Tanil action-comedy, Shaitan Ka Bachcha with Siddharth, Vamsi Krishna and Yogi Babu.



(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Jan 25, 2021 02:48 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).

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Godzilla vs Kong Trailer: Fans Spot ‘Mechagodzilla’ in the Promo, Call Him the Real Villain in This Monster Showdown

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No matter how dumb Godzilla vs Kong turns out to be, fans would be really excited to see King Kong share some pretty heavy blows with the giant mutant lizard. Just hoping that the scenes won’t be shrouded in darkness and haze as we saw in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Or not wait till the third act for the actual showdown to begin, as we were left disappointed in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (and let’s also hope that Kong won’t stop punching Godzilla, because the latter says, ‘Save Mothra’!). The trailer that dropped on January 24has surely amped up our excitement. Godzilla vs Kong Trailer: Two Fan-Favourite Titans Exchange Mighty Blows In This Exhilarating Promo (Watch Video).



One thing that left fans curious about the trailer is that it pitched Kong in a more positive light and puts him as kind of saviour for humankind. While Godzilla is shown as someone who is destroying humanity, as Kyle Chandler’s returning Dr Mark Russell (from Godzilla: King of the Monsters) puts it, though he is clueless as to why Godzilla is doing so.




For Kong was the hero of his movie, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla the hero of two other movies, Godzilla (2014 film) and of course, King of the Monsters. At the end of the latter, Godzilla, having killed King Ghidorah, becomes the undisputed king among the Titans (except Kong). So has power gone to his head, and he is now hell-bent on killing humans?

Watch the trailer:




Well, it looks like Godzilla vs Kong could be going Batman V Superman way, as there is a possibility that there could be a Lex Luthor involved. By Luthor, we mean a third manipulator. Eagle-eyed fans have spotted two references of Mechagodzilla in the trailer, and they believe it is he/it that is causing the havoc.

The first scene is the below:

In the background behind, you could see they are working on something that is like Godzilla (check the legs), but more like a robot.

And then there is this very small scene in the trailer…

A closer look at the monster emerging from the debris doesn’t exactly look like Godzilla.



A Still From Godzilla vs Kong Trailer

Either it could be a case of bad CGI or something else. Like a Mechagodzilla!

So what is Mechagodzilla? In the Kaiju-universe (as Godzilla’s cinematic world is known in Japanese Cinema), Mechagodzilla is like a robotic doppelganger to Godzilla, created by man to protect them from the lizard with atomic breath. Fan theories are doing the rounds that in Godzilla vs Kong, some evil human corporation wants to show Godzilla in a bad light, so they create Mechagodzilla and pin blame of all the destruction he does on Godzilla.

If that’s the case then, we might be heading towards an actual ‘Save Martha!’ scene between Godzilla and Kong. Still, it would be cheesy fun to see two fan-favourite monsters hitting each other on the big screen.

Godzilla vs Kong is directed by horror filmmaker Adam Wingard in his first big-budget production. The movie stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir. Produced by Warner Bros, the movie is releasing in theaters and also streaming exclusively on HBO Max from March 26.

(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Jan 25, 2021 02:33 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).





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