The cold sore virus (HSV-1) currently infects an estimated 3.7 billion people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is mainly spread by mouth-to-mouth contact and causes so-called “cold sores” or “cold sores”, although it can also cause genital herpes.
Two-thirds of the world’s population under the age of 50 are now carriers of the disease. For most people, occasional lip pain is embarrassing and/or uncomfortable, but in combination with other diseases (sepsis or even COVID-19, for example), the virus can be fatal. In 2018, two women died of herpes infection in the UK following a cesarean delivery.
Two-thirds of the world’s population under the age of 50 are carriers of the disease.
It turns out that the disease causing headaches around the world can be traced back to about 5,000 years ago, when humans today imported a very common practice from the East, such as kissing. This is explained by the team from the University of Cambridge that has sequenced the ancient genome of the virus for the first time.
His research published in the journal science progresssuggest that the HSV-1 strain behind modern-day shingles originated in the wake of the Great Bronze Age migration, which reached Europe from the steppe grasslands of Eurasia, and the associated population boom that increased transmission rates.
The disease has a history of millions of years, with a variety of virus-infected species ranging from bats to corals. Yet despite its contemporary occurrence among humans, scientists say that ancient examples were surprisingly difficult to find.
Experts suggest that the Neolithic rise of facial herpes found in the ancient DNA they analyzed may coincide with the advent of a new cultural practice: romantic and sexual kissing.
The researchers note that the earliest known record of kissing is a Bronze Age manuscript from South Asia, and suggests that the practice, far from being universal, may have traveled west with migration from Eurasia to Europe.
In fact, centuries later, the Roman emperor Tiberius attempted to ban kissing in official ceremonies to prevent the spread of the disease, a decree that may be related to herpes. However, for most of human prehistory, HSV-1 transmission would have been “vertical”: the same strain passed from the infected mother to the newborn.
“The world has seen COVID-19 mutate at a rapid rate for weeks and months. Viruses like herpes evolve over a very long time scale,” said study co-author Dr. Charlotte Holdcroft explains. “Facial herpes remains hidden in its host for life and is only transmitted by oral contact, so mutations occur slowly over centuries and millennia. We need to conduct in-depth research to understand why this type of DNA virus How they develop. Previously, the genetic data for shingles was only as far back as 1925,” he said.
The researchers managed to find the virus in the remains of four individuals that were spread over a period of a thousand years, and to extract the DNA they focused on the roots of the teeth, as herpes often breaks out with oral infections. Is. At least two of the bodies had gum disease and a third
The oldest specimen comes from an adult male found in the Ural Mountains region of Russia, about 1,500 years ago at the end of the Iron Age. Two further specimens were from Cambridge: a female from an old Anglo-Saxon cemetery a few miles south of the city dated to the 6th–7th centuries AD, and an adult male from the late 14th century, buried in the grounds of the hospital. Donated and was suffering from terrible abscessed teeth.
The latest specimen found in Holland came from a young man who was an avid pipe smoker and most likely murdered during a French attack on his village on the Rhine in 1672.
“What happened a few millennia ago allowed one strain of the virus to outnumber all the others”
“We examined ancient DNA samples from nearly 3,000 archaeological finds and found only four herpes results,” says Dr. Merriam Guelil. “By comparing ancient genomes with 20th-century herpes samples, we were able to analyze differences and estimate mutation rates and, consequently, a timeline for the evolution of the virus,” says Dr. Lucy van Dorp.
But something happened about 5,000 years ago. “All primate species have one form of shingles, so we believe it is with us as our own species left Africa. However, it happened a few millennia ago that allowed one strain of the virus to outcompete all others. There was probably an increase in transmission, which may be related to kissing,” concluded Dr. Christiana Scheib.