The strain of the virus that is What is behind facial and labial herpes as we know it? It occurred some 5,000 years ago and, according to a new study, the subsequent spread of this infection in Europe may have coincided with the arrival of a new cultural practice imported from the East: Roman kissing. ontic and sexual.
The results of the research led by the University of Cambridge are published in the journal Science Advances and the researchers succeeded, first, in discovering ancient genomes of the herpes virus (HSV 1) and, later, in sequencing them for the first time.< /p>
The authors recall that the latest research suggests that the strain of the HSV-1 virus behind facial herpes as we know it today arose from the virus. about 5,000 years ago. Possibly the increase in transmissions allowed That this one would prevail over all the others.
Millions of years
However, describes a statement from the aforementioned university, herpes has a history that goes back millions of years, and the forms of the virus infect species ranging from bats to corals.
< p>“The world has watched COVID-19 mutate at a rapid rate for weeks and months. A virus like herpes evolves on a much longer time scale,” said Charlotte Houldcroft, co-author of the study and member of the department. Cambridge Genetics.
Facial herpes hides in its host for life and is only transmitted by direct contact, so mutations occur slowly over centuries and millennia .
“We have to do in-depth research over time to understand how DNA viruses like this one evolve,” says the researcher, adding that “previously the genetic data of herpes they only dated back to 1925.”
However, despite its current prevalence, ancient examples of HSV-1 were surprisingly difficult to find.
3,000 archaeological finds
After examining ancient DNA samples From some 3,000 archaeological finds, the team managed to located herpes in the remains of four individuals over a period of a thousand years (from the 7th to the 17th century), and extracted the viral DNA from the roots of the teeth.
Herpes, the authors detail, usually breaks out with oral infections: at least two of the old corpses suffered from gum disease and a third smoked tobacco.
By comparing the ancient DNA with herpes samples from the 20th century, the team was able to analyze the differences and estimate a mutation rate and thus a timeline of the evolution of the virus.
< p>“All primate species have a form of herpes, so we assume it has been with us since our own species left Africa,” says Christiana Scheib, another author.
“However, something happened about five thousand years ago that allowed one strain to overtake all others, possibly an increase in transmissions that could have been related to kissing“.
The researchers point out that the earliest known record of kissing is a Bronze Age manuscript from South Asia, which suggests that the custom – which was far from universal in human cultures – may have traveled west with migrations to Europe from Eurasia.
Indeed, centuries later,the Roman Emperor Tiberius attempted to Prohibit kisses in official acts to avoid the spread of diseases, a decree that could be related to herpes, they point out.
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