Ancient DNA Identification of Early 20th Century Simian T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1

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The molecular identification of proviruses from ancient tissues (and particularly from bones) remains a contentious issue. It can be expected that the copy number of proviruses will be low, which magnifies the risk of contamination with retroviruses from exogenous sources. To assess the feasibility of paleoretrovirological studies, we attempted to identify proviruses from early 20th century bones of museum specimens while following a strict ancient DNA methodology. Simian T-cell leukemia virus type 1 sequences were successfully obtained and authenticated from a Chlorocebus pygerythrus specimen. This represents the first clear evidence that it will be possible to use museum specimens to better characterize simian and human T-tropic retrovirus genetic diversity and analyze their origin and evolution, in greater detail.

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