Herpes virus originated in chimpanzees

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the evolutionary origins of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 and -2, reporting that the former infected hominids before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago while the latter jumped from ancient chimpanzees to ancestors of modern humans – Homo erectus – approximately 1.6 million years ago.

The findings are published in the online issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

“The results help us to better understand how these viruses evolved and found their way into humans,” said Joel O. Wertheim, PhD, assistant research scientist at the UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center and lead author of the study. “Animal disease reservoirs are extremely important for global public health. Understanding where our viruses come from will help guide us in preventing future viruses from making the jump into humans.”

Approximately two-thirds of the human population is infected with at least one herpes simplex virus. The viruses are most commonly presented as cold sores on the mouth or lips or blisters on the genitals.

“Humans are the only primates we know of that have two herpes simplex viruses,” said Wertheim. “We wanted to determine why.”

Full Article: Medical News Today

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