Scientists believe that a certain herpes virus which infects human beings first started off in chimpanzees before it moved over into the early ancestors of humans, a new research study is reporting. Examiners discovered that the herpes simplex virus 1 or HSV-1 was infecting hominids way before they had their evolutionary split from chimpanzees around six to seven million years ago where herpes simplex 2 or HSV-2 was instead transmitted from prehistoric chimpanzees to ancient human ancestors like Homo erectus around two million years ago. This was a long time before the rising of some of the first modern humans around 200,000 years ago.
Before modern man’s ancestors were considered to be fully human, there were still cross species transmission going on in the evolutionary line,” explained research study report investigator Joel Wertheim, who works as an evolutionary scientist at the University of California, San Diego
He believes that Neanderthals, who were long thought to have been at least two-thirds of the human population, were infected with at least one type of herpes simplex virus. HSV-1 usually shows up as cold sores on the lips or around the mouth, where HSV-2 mainly causes blisters on a person’s genitals. In addition, humans are also the only primate class which is able to become infected by more than just one herpes virus, added Wertheim.
Scientists think the certain herpes virus which infects human beings today started off in chimpanzees before it moved over into the early ancestors of humans. In the research study, the scientists compared the herpes viruses of humans with those of other primate species. They used advanced molecular evolution models to guess approximately how and when the viruses had separated from one another and how they were introduced into the human body.
An earlier theory had stated that HSV-1 was thought to have been introduced to humans possibly from another ape species, such as orangutans stated Wertheim. The split between HSV-2 and its chimpanzee equivalent was believed to have happened with the splitting of humans and chimpanzees.
In contrast, the new study shows that HSV-2 was the outcome of species cross transmission to human beings from today’s chimpanzees’ ancestors, and modern HSV-1 is what occurred from the split from the human and chimpanzee viruses. That means that humans and chimpanzees each now have their own type of the herpes virus.
Such results could aid scientists into better comprehending the mechanisms of species-to-species diffusion, which still happens, the research scientists explained. For example, people this day and time frequently become infected with a severe version of the simplex virus, which can cause serious illness but human transmission is very rare. However by understanding when and how ancient humans came down with viruses that presently infect the population is able to provide researchers with new perspectives on future, prospective cross-species contamination and other events which might progress to the introduction of other viruses.
Wertheim said that by knowing some human viruses are far older than others is important to know for perspective. For example, cross-species transmissions of viruses such as the one that is behind severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS is extremely modern, where other viruses such as HIV is believed to be nearly 100 years old.
The research report was printed up in the most recent edition of the science journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. The report goes over how scientists believe that the herpes virus which infects human beings is believed to have started off in chimpanzees before it moved over into the early ancestors of humans.
By Kimberly Ruble