How kissing 5,000 years ago led to what we now call cold sores

The advent of romantic kissing 5,000 years ago may have sparked the spread of the herpes virus, leading to 3.7 billion people now infected with herpes, researchers believe.

The sharp rise in facial herpes in Europe during the Neolithic period may coincide with “smooching,” a new practice imported from the East, a study from the University of Cambridge and University College London suggests.

The earliest record of “putting by mouth” dates from The Vedasa set of Bronze Age religious texts originating in India.

The custom is believed to have started after Alexander the Great conquered Punjab in 326 BC.

Now scientists have extracted DNA from ancient skeletons to trace the origin of the herpes virus and found that its rise coincided with the onset of kissing.

“Every primate species has some form of herpes, so we assume we’ve been around since our own species left Africa,” said Dr. Christiana Scheib of St John’s College, Cambridge.

“However, something happened about 5,000 years ago that allowed one strain of herpes to overtake all others, possibly an increase in transmissions that could be linked to kissing.”

Anthropologists disagree on why it started, but bonobos and chimpanzees do kiss, often as a form of post-conflict reconciliation.

Early humans may also have fed their young by mouth, leading them to acquire an association with pleasure and food.

The research was published in the journal scientific advances.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] How kissing 5,000 years ago led to what we now call cold sores

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