According to scientists, the herpes virus became widespread around 5,000 years ago, possibly due to the popularity of kissing at the time.
“Every primate species has a type of herpes, so we think we’ve had it since our species left Africa,” said Christiana Scheib, a researcher at the University of Cambridge. Jones College and head of the Ancient DNA Laboratory at the University of Tartu in Estonia, said. message (opens in new tab). “However, something happened about five thousand years ago that allowed one strain of herpes to overtake all the others, possibly related to kissing.”
That’s the theory anyway. Charlotte Houldcroft, senior author and leader of the Viral Genomics Group at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Genetics, The Guardian announced (opens in new tab) More evidence is needed to establish a link between Bronze Age make-out sessions and modern herpes. “Kissing is one of those behaviors that doesn’t fossilize well,” she said.
herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is a type of herpes that most commonly causes cold sores, but it can also cause genital herpes. World Health Organization (opens in new tab) (WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION). A lifelong infection often causes no symptoms, but can sometimes cause painful blisters or open sores at the site of infection. Recent estimates show that about 3.7 billion people under the age of 50, or about 67% of people in that age group, are infected with HSV-1, and most of those affected have contact with people who contracted the virus in childhood or early adulthood. saliva, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in new tab) (CDC).
Contacted: Oral and genital herpes viruses are “sex”. The result is disturbing.
In a new study published July 27 in the journal Science Advances (opens in new tab)researchers suggest that the current HSV-1 virus overcame other herpes variants during the Bronze Age, after humans traveled from the grasslands of Eurasia to Europe in a mass migration.
For the study, researchers analyzed traces of the herpes virus DNA Excavations in Great Britain, the Netherlands and Russia have found the remains of four people. The oldest fossils excavated from Russia’s Ural Mountains are about 1,500 years old, and the youngest found in the Netherlands is about 350 years old.
Before the study, the oldest herpes genomes had been recovered only in 1925, Houldcroft said in a statement.
Scientists examined the roots of these people’s teeth to “dust” the genetic “fingerprints” of herpes viruses. Unlike bones in the body, teeth do not regenerate, meaning they do not replace old cells with new ones. Because of this, and because viruses can enter the teeth via the bloodstream, the teeth can provide a cumulative record of the pathogens a person encounters. Live Science previously reported.
By comparing the newly discovered herpes DNA with herpes viruses from the 20th century, the researchers were able to calculate the mutation rate of the virus and thus trace the evolutionary history of the pathogen. Based on this analysis, they determined that HSV-1 originated about 5,200 years ago, give or take a few hundred years. This romantic and sexual kissing tradition became widespread, probably with the Bronze Age migration to Europe, according to the authors.
Although some Stone Age statues have been interpreted as couples embracing, the study authors wrote, “the earliest known record of kissing is from a Bronze Age South Asian manuscript.” Armies Alexander the Great It may have been brought to the Mediterranean around 300 BC and then in the first century AD. [Roman] Emperor Tiberius is said to have tried to ban kissing at official events to stop the spread of the disease (whether it was herpes or not),” the authors wrote.
This increase in kissing likely helped HSV-1 spread and gain more prominence than other circulating herpes viruses, the authors argue. “If you have a group of people suddenly kissing, it’s not universal human behavior, it’s an additional way to spread the virus,” Houldcroft told The Guardian. (Romantic kissing isn’t even widely practiced in modern cultures, according to a 2015 study published in the journal American anthropologist (opens in new tab).)
But again, this is just a theory. Even if romantic kissing was common during the Bronze Age migration, the extent to which these sessions influenced the evolution of herpes viruses is unknown. The authors note that historically, most people contracted herpes from family members as children, and today, most people contract HSV-1 as children rather than through romantic kissing.
Originally published on Live Science.