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Ancient origin of hepatitis B viruses revealed by DNA fossils in bird genomes

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The hepatitis B virus originally infected birds back when the dinosaurs still roamed the planet, according to a newly published study of genomic bird DNA, a finding that may help improve human health outcomes.

As the old adage goes; "One man's trash is another man's treasure": what has often been described as "junk DNA" has revealed a hidden gem. Not only can we find the ancient ancestor of the human hepatitis B virus nestled in songbird genomes, but according to research published recently by a team of scientists at the University of Münster, this virus is 63 million years older than originally thought, a finding that may help improve human health outcomes.

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