“Archaeology and Medicine – Touring the HTLV-1 virus”  Mitsufumi Okamoto (Director of Internal Medicine Okamoto Clinic)|電経新聞

“Archaeology and Medicine – Touring the HTLV-1 virus”  Mitsufumi Okamoto (Director of Internal Medicine Okamoto Clinic)

Science and humanities. Generally speaking, when you think of medical school, you think of it as a science major. However, when I was in middle school and high school, my favorite subjects were Japanese history, ancient Japanese literature, and Chinese literature, and my weak subjects were mathematics and physics. In particular, I loved Japanese history so much that I got a perfect score on the national mock exam, and until the very end I had a hard time deciding whether to pursue a liberal arts major and aim to become an archaeologist, or to pursue a science major and aim to become a doctor.

I would like to introduce the HTLV-1 virus as part of this collaboration between archeology and medicine.
The HTLV-1 virus is a virus that causes adult T-cell leukemia and malignant lymphoma, and is a virus that infects T cells, a type of white blood cell. Recently, former professional baseball player Manabu Kitabeppu passed away from this disease, so some of you may be familiar with it.
Carriers of this virus (people who have the virus in their bodies but have not developed leukemia or lymphoma) are found mainly in western Japan, such as Kyushu, Shikoku, and the Kii Peninsula, and are mainly transmitted to the next generation through breast milk. To go. For this reason, one local government in Kyushu requires pregnant women to be tested for the HTLV-1 virus, and if they test positive, the local government subsidizes the cost of milk to prevent the next generation from being infected. It is hoped that with such measures, the HTLV-1 virus will be able to be eradicated or close to being eradicated in the future.

Now, the reason why this HTLV-1 virus is so common in western Japan is that, as mentioned above, it is mainly transmitted through breast milk, and it is assumed that the virus is distributed along with the movement of humans. Looking around the world, it is common in some regions such as South America and Africa.

It is very interesting to trace the ancestry of the HTLV-1 viruses in Japan and South America to the Jomon period. The Jomon period lasted for more than 10,000 years, but if we think about it from an archaeological perspective, we can see what happened when the ancestors of viruses began to diverge. The Jomon people who came from the continent were living in Japan, but around that time, the Kikai caldera in Kyushu caused a large eruption. Volcanic ash fell all over Japan, destroying the chestnut trees that were the staple food at the time. The Jomon people quickly ran into food shortages. Therefore, the Jomon people used their excellent navigation skills to cross the Pacific Ocean in search of a new land unaffected by volcanic ash. Many people may wonder whether it was really possible to cross the Pacific Ocean during that time, but pottery very similar to Jomon pottery has been unearthed in Peru and other places.

In addition to such archaeological facts, this virus has also revealed folklore, such as the fact that Taiwan and Okinawa are geographically very close, and although they have had contact, they have rarely had marriages with each other. ing.
An invisible microscopic virus. From there, we can learn about ancient history such as large eruptions and crossings of the Pacific Ocean, and the dynamic movements and activities of humankind, such as human exchanges.
We hope that further progress will be made in understanding the HTLV-1 virus and further progress in the treatment of adult T-cell leukemia/malignant lymphoma.