‘Cold sore’ virus may have gained prominence thanks to Bronze Age smooching

The herpes virus behind cold sores may have first spread widely about 5,000 years ago, possibly due to the rising popularity of kissing at the time, researchers say.

“Every primate species has a form of herpes, so we assume it has been with us since our own species left Africa,” co-senior author Christiana Scheib, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge’s St. John’s College and head of the Ancient DNA lab at the University of Tartu in Estonia, said in a statement (opens in new tab). “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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