ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — A new study finds that early human ancestors got herpes from chimpanzees.
According to LiveScience, researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that the “herpes simplex virus 1 infected hominids before their evolutionary split from chimps 6 million years ago.” In comparison, the herpes simplex 2 virus was transferred from chimps to human ancestors nearly 1.6 million years ago.
“Before we were human, there was still cross-species transmission into our evolutionary lineage,” Joe Wertheim, study author and assistant research scientist at the university’s AntiViral Research Center, told LiveScience.
Wertheim noted in his study that herpes simplex virus 2 was caused by “cross-species transmission” from modern chimp ancestors to humans, while the herpes simplex virus 1 is a split between the chimp and human viruses.
“Understanding how and when we acquired viruses that currently infect us can give us perspective on future, potential cross-species transmission events that would lead to the introduction of new human viruses,” Wertheim told LiveScience.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with herpes do not know they have it and there is currently no cure for the disease.
Wertheim’s study was published in the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal.