Ancient humans, who migrated from Africa, may have infected Neanderthals with Herpes, a new study has found.

Many theories about the demise of Neanderthals have surfaced. In the new study, researchers think that infections carried by humans from Africa may have contributed to that downfall.

Researchers identified numerous types of infections that may have possibly sickened the species of hominins. These include tuberculosis, stomach ulcers, tapeworm infection and the particularly striking disease that is herpes.

"Humans migrating out of Africa would have been a significant reservoir of tropical diseases," says study author Charlotte Houldcroft.

Focus On Herpes

Somewhere in the genome of the disease lies a proof that herpes simplex 2, the virus that can cause genital herpes, was transferred to humans residing in Africa some 1.6 million years ago. The virus originated from another unidentified species of hominin that in turn got it from chimpanzees.

Houldcroft further explains that since humans bred with Neanderthals and that the former carry about two to five percent of the latter's DNA, it is but sensical to assume that maybe the herpes virus was transmitted between the species.

Effects Of Herpes, Other Diseases To Neanderthals

The chronic diseases associated with the migration of humans from Africa most likely decreased the different living capabilities of the Neanderthals. The diseases may have weakened the species in terms of their hunter-gatherer abilities, causing them to fail in finding food for survival. This possibility may have boosted the eventual demise of the Neanderthals.

Genital herpes may cause one to experience painful genital sores. The extent of severity may be more heightened in people with suppressed immune systems.

The herpes virus may be transferred from one person to another via direct contact with the sores or its fluids. It is also possible to transfer the virus within a person by touching an unaffected body part, say the eyes, after getting in contact with a herpes-contaminated area.

In today's time, people with herpes are not only worried about the physical implications of the disease. They are also concerned about the disease's impacts on their social, sexual and overall life. After all, it is not a curable disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In the end, the researchers said that there are variety of factors that may have caused the extinction of the Neanderthals. These factors are so diverse that it ranges from climate change to human-animal alliances. This body of study grows more as the emergence of diseases during that time now appears to have a significant role as well.

The study was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology on April 10.

Photo: Paul Hudson | Flickr

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