Health Day Reporter
Thursday, July 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — though The herpes virus that causes cold sores is so common today that scientists have had a hard time finding traces of it in ancient remains.
Now, researchers report that they have discovered and sequenced the genomes of four ancient herpesviruses for the first time. What did they find?
It appears that most cases of herpes in ancient times were probably transmitted ‘vertically’, from infected mother to newborn , rather than through kissing, a custom that first appeared in South Asia may have migrated to Europe later.
“The world has witnessed weeks and months of rapid growth in the variation of COVID-19. Viruses like herpes evolve on larger timescales,” explains co-senior study author Dr Charlotte Houldcroft from the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, UK.
“Facial herpes hides in the host for life and is only transmitted by oral contact, so it has Mutations occur slowly over the middle of the year. We need deep investigations to understand how DNA viruses like this evolve,” Holdcroft told a Cambridge news conference. “Previously, genetic data for herpes could only be traced back to 1925.”
The herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) strain, the modern-day facial herpes that infects 3.7 billion people worldwide, first appeared about 5,000 years ago, when the Bronze Age migrated from the steppe steppe of Eurasia to Europe, the researchers said. But herpes has a history that goes back millions of years, and it can infect a variety of species.
“We screened about 3,000 archaeological finds of ancient DNA samples and found only four herpes,” from Tal, Estonia said co-lead study author Meriam Guellil, PhD, of the Institute for Genomics at the University of Tue.
The researchers extracted viral DNA from the tooth roots of infected individuals. Herpes often flares during oral infections, and the ancient corpses included two people with gum disease and one who smoked.
These people lived at different times in a thousand years. Among them was an adult male excavated in Russia’s Ural mountains. He lived in the Iron Age some 1,500 years ago.
Two other samples were found near Cambridge. They are women from an early Anglo-Saxon burial ground a few miles south of the city, dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries. The other is a young adult male of the late 14th century. He was buried in the courtyard of the Medieval Cambridge Mercy Hospital and suffered what the researchers described as a “appalling” tooth abscess.
“By comparing ancient DNA with 20th century herpes samples, we were able to analyze the differences and estimate mutation rates, thereby estimating A timeline of viral evolution,” said co-lead study author Dr Lucy van Dorp from the UCL Institute of Genetics.
According to co-senior study author Dr. Christiana Scheib, “Every primate has some form of herpes , so we think it has been with us since our own species left Africa.” Scheib is a researcher at St John’s College, Cambridge, and head of the University’s Ancient DNA Laboratory Tartu.
“However, something happened about 5,000 years ago that allowed one herpes virus to overtake all others, possibly an increase in transmission, which may be related to kissing,” Scheib points out.
The World Health Organization estimates that two-thirds of the global population under the age of 50 currently carry HSV-1. Although mainly uncomfortable, it can be dangerous in combination with sepsis or COVID-19.
“Only hundreds of genetic samples or even thousands of years of history will allow us to understand DNA such as herpes and monkeypox How viruses and our own immune systems adapt to each other,” Houldcroft said.
The research team hopes to investigate earlier infections. “Neanderthal herpes is the next mountain I’m going to climb,” Scheib said.
The findings were published in the journal July 27 Scientific Progress.
The World Health Organization has more information on herpes.
Source: University of Cambridge, Press Release, July 27, 2022