Bones hold the key to DNA virus history and epidemiology.
Toppinen M., Perdomo MF., Palo JU., Simmonds P., Lycett SJ., Söderlund-Venermo M., Sajantila A., Hedman K.
DNA in human skeletal remains represents an important historical source of host genomic information and potentially of infecting viruses. However, little is known about viral persistence in bone. We searched ca. 70-year-old long bones of putative Finnish casualties from World War II for parvovirus B19 (B19V) DNA, and found a remarkable prevalence of 45%. The viral sequences were exclusively of genotypes 2 (n = 41), which disappeared from circulation in 1970´s, or genotype 3 (n = 2), which has never been reported in Northern Europe. Based on mitochondrial and Y-chromosome profiling, the two individuals carrying B19V genotype 3 were likely from the Soviet Red Army. The most recent common ancestor for all genotypes was estimated at early 1800s. This work demonstrates the forms of B19V that circulated in the first half of the 20(th) century and provides the first evidence of the suitability of bone for exploration of DNA viruses.