Researchers have found that the face herpes variant which causes cold sores today traces all the way back to the bronze age when apparently people started kissing for the first time. As someone who has to deal with face herpes regularly, I’m extremely offended by my horny ancestors rn.

Scientists in Cambridge looked at the earliest DNA specimens of herpes and found that one variant overtook all others the bronze age, about 4,500 years ago.

The herpes variant that causes cold sores became widespread amid a lot of migration from the Middle East and Asia to Europe. Scientists reckon all that crossover may have seen the virus spread, but it may have also been because that’s when smooching became trendy in Europe. Disgusting, honestly.

“There were variants around before that but those have been replaced, probably because of human behaviour,” researcher Dr Charlotte Houldcroft said.

Prior to this it seemed the virus was mainly passed in vitro from mother to child, so it very well could have been horny behaviour that saw it take off.

Kissing was not a cultural norm during the bronze age but the earliest known written record of kissing is a bronze age manuscript from South Asia. The practice is thought to have migrated to Europe and picked up a bit of popularity.

“If you suddenly have a group of people who are kissing, which was not a universal human behaviour, that is an extra way to spread the virus,” Houldcroft said.

What even is a cold sore?

A cold sore is sort of blister that usually forms around the lips and nose caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus — HSV-1. Note: HSV-1 is not to be confused with genital herpes, or HSV-2, which is related but a completely different virus.

Cold sores are tingly, tender and just generally a bit unpleasant and last about a week. There is no cure, but some anti-viral creams or treatments can help them heal faster.

HSV-1 is believed to date back millions of years to our pre-homo sapien ancestors. Today it’s very common and an estimated 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 around the world have a HSV-1 infection. Yes, billion.

But most HSV infections are asymptomatic so not everyone gets a cold sore when they’re infected. Most of us won’t even know we have it, but some of us are just unlucky.

Infection with HSV-1 is lifelong and symptoms can recur over and over.

If you get cold sores, you’ll know it by now. I get one probably four to six times a year when I’m rundown or my immune system is weakened by another virus. If you’re in your 20s and you’ve never had one before, chances are you won’t.

But to be safe, obviously don’t go kissing someone if they have an active sore.

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