An article was found that researchers have pinpointed the first happenings of the Herpes Virus after several years. Researchers could record the early sights of the herpes virus through sequenced ancient herpes virus genomes for the first time. Although The Herpes virus today is a virus that causes lip sores, back in the day, most herpes cases were passed from an infected mother to her newborn baby rather than through kissing, which it is known for today. Dr. Charlotte Houldcroft, from the department of genetics at the University of Cambridge, in England, explains that genetic data for herpes only went back to 1925. Dr. Houldcrroft and Dr. Meriam Guellil, from the University of Tatu’s Institute of Genomics in Estonia, screened ancient DNA sampled from about 3,000 archaeological findings and only got four herpes hits. DNA was extracted from the roots of the teeth of infected individuals. The herpes virus often flares during mouth infection, and the ancient corpses included two individuals with gum disease and one who smoked tobacco. For the four hits of evidence, the individuals lived at various times over thousand years. One male lived during the Iron Age about 1,500 years ago. Another two sampled individuals were found near Cambridge, one female from an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery dating from the 6th to the 7th centuries. The last was a young adult male from the 14th century who was buried on the grounds of a medieval Cambridge hospital and had suffered what the researcher called “appalling” dental abscesses. The fourth sample was from a young adult male from Holland who they assumed was a clay pipe smoker. With the researchers comparing the DNA of these ancient cadavers with the herpes samples from the 20th century, they were able to analyze the differences and estimate a mutation rate and even a timeline for the evolution of the virus. About 5,000 years ago, the virus overtook all other viruses and increased the transmission rate, which was believed to be from kissing. On average now, two-thirds of the global population that is under the age of 50 carry the Herpes Virus (HSV-1).
It was interesting to learn how in the past, the Herpes Virus was known to be passed down from mother to her baby through the womb rather than how it is today. It goes to show how times change with science and medicine. Its fascinating to think that at first mothers passed down the virus but over the course of years, and the changing of cultural practices during the Bronze Age, the emergence of romantic kissing became the factor of HSV-1. To me, I think it is important to study Ancient DNA, this way we can get a better understanding of past experiences and to keep future generations safe from epidemics of the past.