The Nutcracker Man Gave Us Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is that affliction that many have, and few discuss. While we often hear about other sexually transmitted ailments, herpes is not addressed as often. But now we are learning new things about the origin of genital herpes. It seems that ancestors of today’s humans might have contracted genital herpes from an extinct relative of a human being that is referred to as Nutcracker Man. This is what a brand new study is suggesting.

When the DNA of various viruses, bacteria and other life-forms are analyzed, data reflecting origins of human diseases is revealed along with hints regarding perhaps the lifestyles of past human being as well as their ancestors. For instance, a study in 2007 indicated that humans got pubic lice from afflicted gorillas around 3 million years ago. And then there is a 2011 study which suggests that Columbus and crew carried syphilis along with them into the New World from the Old World.

“We can use data from diseases to reconstruct events that are completely invisible to the archaeological and fossil records,” said senior author Charlotte Houldcroft, who is a virologist from the University of Cambridge in England.

Tracing Ancient Diseases

Houldcroft and associates evaluated two related viruses. In today’s humans, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) occurs inside cold sores, and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2) occurs in genital herpes.

There was a study in 2014 which indicated that HSV1 infected the human being family tree, and this is referred to as hominins, since the precursor split of chimpanzees about 6 or 7 million years ago. This study has estimated just how long the hominins possessed HSV1 simply by comparing today’s human variants of these viruses with the ones that were found in chimps. It seems that DNA will accumulate mutations over time at a fairly constant rate, and when the level of genetic variance between the viruses is examined, researchers can estimate closely to when they may have diverged.

This 2014 study indicated that HSV2 did not begin the infestation of modern human ancestors until around 3 to 1.4 million years ago. And, it seems that HSV2 had to come from some other species, given that hominins had already been split off from the chimpanzee predecessors.

“Herpes [viruses] infect everything from humans to coral, with each species having its own specific set of viruses,” Houldcraft stated. “For these viruses to jump species barriers, they need a lucky genetic mutation combined with significant fluid exchange.”

How modern human beings contracted genital herpes

Scientists believe that the most probable route through which the HSV2 virus afflicted the ancestors of modern human being had to come from African apes via a hominin species that was unknown. They were not implying that some hanky-panky had occurred allowing HSV2 to leap into another species. Instead, this intermediate hominin species could have gotten HSV2 from scavenging through chimp meat at the place that the savanna meets the forest. And maybe those germs had seeped into their bodies through open sores or bites. Homo erectus, which is the ancestor of today’s human being, could have possibly gotten HSV2 by scavenging from the intermediate hominin, or maybe drinking in proximity to it at a river or lake. 

In conclusion, researchers felt that most probable culprit for contracting and spreading genital herpes to ancestors of today’s humans was none other than the popular hominin Paranthropus boisei, who resided in the lands of East Africa around 1.4 to 2.4 million years ago. This is the species who got the nickname “Nutcracker Man” simply because of his huge jaw and molars.