All the kissing our ancient ancestors' did is what gave us herpes: Study

All the kissing our ancient ancestors' did is what gave us herpes: Study

The team extracted viral DNA from the tooth roots of human bones dating back a millennium and then used that information to map ancient herpes genomes.

A new study suggests that the modern-day cold sores or herpes origins can be traced back to the bronze age, to the time when our ancestors began to engage in romantic and sexual kissing. Today, the virus infects approximately 3.7 billion people says the study, which was led by an international team of researchers from Cambridge University. The team has discovered and sequenced ancient genomes from the herpes virus, which frequently causes lip sores. The research which was published in the journal Science Advances says that the Neolithic blooming of facial herpes found in the ancient DNA may have corresponded with the introduction of a new cultural activity imported from the east: romantic and sexual kissing. The team extracted viral DNA from the tooth roots of human bones dating back a millennium and then used that information to map ancient herpes genomes.

An analysis showed the painful lip blisters flourished during the Neolithic period, in the wake of vast migrations into Europe from the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia.

Herpes is present in every species of monkey, "so we assume it has been with us since our own species left Africa," according to co-senior author Dr Christiana Scheib, a research associate at St. John's College in Cambridge.

The study found that interbreeding sparked population explosions across the continent, which fueled increased transmission rates.

“However, something happened around five thousand years ago that allowed one strain of herpes to overtake all others, possibly an increase in transmissions, which could have been linked to kissing.”

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"Herpes has a history stretching back millions of years, and forms of the virus infect species from bats to coral."

The study points out that behaviour is far from universal in human civilizations. The earliest account of kissing is a Bronze Age document from South Asia.

Centuries later, the Roman Emperor Tiberius also made a possible herpes-related decree that attempted to forbid kissing at official gatherings in order to stop the spread of the disease.

A high temperature, nausea, headaches, and swollen, inflamed gums with sores in and around the mouth are just a few of the symptoms of herpes. Herpes can become active after years of dormancy in the body, making it a chronic illness.

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