The ancestors of the Andean indigenous people are believed to have originated in Asia and migrated to South America about 20,000 years ago. This explains their genetic similarities with the Japanese, including their similarity in human T-cell lymphotrophic virus type I (HTLV-1) haplotypes. To determine whether the ancient Andeans (Paleo-mongoloids) migrated with this HTLV-1 haplotype, Cartier et al. (page 1428, this issue) analyzed DNA isolated from bone marrow of mummies excavated from the Atacama desert in north Chile. People buried in cemeteries of this region were naturally mummified by the dry and salty conditions of the desert, and thousands of mummified bodies have been discovered. Two of 104 mummies tested actually had ancient HTLV-1 DNA, and these viral DNA sequences were almost identical to those of modern-day Chilean and Japanese HTLV-1-seropositive individuals. The authors suggest that the HTLV-1 provirus of these mummies might be the aboriginal HTLV-1 prevailing among Mongoloid populations in Asia and the Andes over 1,500 years ago. The picture shows one of the mummies from this region, a woman estimated to be 1,300–1,700 years old, at the Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueologicas y Museo in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
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Novak, K. Ancient HTLV-1. Nat Med 5, 1357 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/70923
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