Ancient genomes from the herpes virus that commonly causes lip sores--and currently infects some 3.7 billion people globally--have been uncovered and sequenced for the first time by an international team of scientists led by ones at the University of Cambridge. The latest research suggests that the HSV-1 virus strain behind facial herpes as we know it today arose approximately five thousand years ago, in the wake of vast Bronze Age migrations into Europe from the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia, and associated population booms that drove rates of transmission. Herpes has a history stretching back millions of years, and forms of the virus infect species from bats to coral. Despite its contemporary prevalence among humans, however, scientists say that ancient examples of HSV-1 were surprisingly hard to find.
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