back to article HUMANS all come FROM AFRICA: HERPES does not lie

Many lotharios will agree that there's nothing attractive about a cold sore - but the virus behind this common affliction is proving very useful in tracing the migration patterns of early humans. In fact, boffins have been able to analyse the DNA of the unsightly, lip-borne herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) to shore up the " …


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  1. frank ly

    re. a lifelong affliction

    This makes me wonder if there's such a thing as a viriphage. Or are viruses too simple to be worth using in this way by another 'lifeform'?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: re. a lifelong affliction

      Google "virusoid".

  2. Vociferous

    No, it doesn't.

    1) Gene tree vs species tree.

    2) Studying a proxy vs studying the target organism directly.

    3) The molecular clock isn't.

    4) Simulations are not observations.

    5) The Multiregional theory, which is supported by analyses of human DNA, also means that humans originated in africa and spread out in several waves, just like in the Out of Africa theory. The difference between the theories is that according to Out Of Africa, H. sapiens was a different species to the archaic humans which had left africa earlier (e.g. neanderthals), and completely wiped out the archaic species without interbreeding with them.

    Taken together their evidence is not support of the Out of Africa theory, but of that humans are more likely to kiss people living geographically close to them. A result so shocking and surprising that I understand that they felt the need to sex it up a bit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No, it doesn't.

      1) A genetic map is likely to be more specific than a species map, as it can map breeds and subspecies.

      2) Proxy study is common in archaeology as it helps provide corroborating details (think diatom fossils).

      3) But what about the radioactive clock? Last I checked, radioactive decay is pretty consistent for a given isotope, which is why Carbon-14 dating is such a useful tool.

      4) Until we have a time machine, it's the best we can do for events tens of thousands of years ago. Heck, it's hard enough putting together information from just 100 years ago.

      5) What does it matter either way? Homo sapiens originated in Africa and spread from there. Whether we killed off our protohuman ancestors or they died on their own is irrelevant. We're the last ones standing.

      As for kissing, did you forget the part where you can also get herpes just from touching infected skin? So if you're violently-minded, a punch that hits a cold sore could suffice, as could touching anything that touched said sore point. That's why herpes was used: because it's both chronic and VERY contagious.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: No, it doesn't.

        Herpes is so contagious, that's it's now combined with bird flu and mutated into a new superbug.

        it's called: Herpes herpes cheep-cheep...

      2. Vociferous

        Re: No, it doesn't.

        1) Google "gene tree vs species tree".

        2) Yes, it is common. It is still _a proxy_, with the inherent uncertainty that brings.

        3) Radioactive decay and the molecular clock have nothing whatsoever in common. The molecular clock is the assumption that evolution proceeds at a uniform pace within a lineage, and that therefore the number of mutations can be translated into time since origin.

        4) I have no problem with simulations. I do Bayesian simulations for a living. The problem is when people think that a simulation proves anything, or that it is equal in weight to an observation (like, say, a fossil).

        5) Out of Africa isn't just a general "humans originated in Africa", it is a specific theory about the origin of humans, as is the Multiregional theory.

        6) Give me a break.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    What's the difference between love and herpes?

    Herpes lasts forever.

    1. Roo

      Re: What's the difference between love and herpes?

      It's a cracking joke, but it's poor form to steal your comment directly from the article. :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the difference between love and herpes?

        it's poor form to steal your comment directly from the article. :)

        You're making the assumption that I read beyond the headline in the article. I often head straight for the comments as they are more entertaining.

        1. Martin Budden Silver badge

          Re: What's the difference between love and herpes?

          By all means head straight to the comments and read them instead of the article, but if you post a comment yourself without having read the article you are commenting on you run the risk of embarrassing yourself. Just sayin'.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's the difference between love and herpes?

            you run the risk of embarrassing yourself. Just sayin'.

            Embarrassing myself? Yo do realise this is the comments section of The Register? I only come here to read and make embarrassing comments.

            Just saying.

    2. Curly4

      Re: What's the difference between love and herpes?

      Well that depends on the definition of love. If it is as many people define it as sex your comparison is true. On the other hand if it is defined as the intertwining of two hearts then it is incorrect. Even I know of an example or two of the later myself.

  4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Speaking as an original inhabitant of the British Isles, I can agree. They all came out of Africa, and now they're over here taking our caves.


    Mr Wool E. Mammoth

    1. Just_this_guy

      Dear Mr Mammoth

      Get back to where you came from, you johnny-come-lately habitat-enchroacher!


      Mr Terry Lobite

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Dear Mr Mammoth

        That's quite enough from both of you.


        Amin O'Acid

        1. AbelSoul

          Re: Dear Mr Mammoth

          Bravo & +1 to all three of you.

          Mr. Aaron Ay.

          1. proto-robbie
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Dear Mr Mammoth

            Overpaid, over-sexed and over here.

            Master Don

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @I aint Spartacus

      " and now they're over here taking our caves." - and our jobs (well, no!) and our women and our parking spaces!

  5. Faye B

    Kiss and Tell

    Surely all this proves is that people with Herpes move about a lot. This thoery seems to have the assumption that migration occurs only in one direction.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Kiss and Tell

      Then ask yourself: if the migration was two-way, why didn't the Asian herpes strains COME BACK to Africa?

      1. Mephistro

        Re: Kiss and Tell (@ Charles 9)

        "why didn't the Asian herpes strains COME BACK to Africa?"

        Sure, it took a while, but they're coming back now, with all those Chinese investments in Africa.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: Kiss and Tell

      Yes, that is a fundamental assumption of this kind of simulation.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kiss and Tell

      Hear, hear! pseudo science at best.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Fine work.

    Actual field work and lab work follow up.

  7. Graphsboy


    I knew a guy who got herpes in his eyebrow.

    He'd been looking for love in all the wrong places.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the Garden of Eden is Where, exactly?

    It looks like the Ethiopians were right about the Garden being in their territory, then!

    But this also explains the israelite theory too, since the "few emigrants" went to the Fertile Crescent. Race memories from there would account for Genesis!

    Of course, God is not in the picture. This is just history!

  9. Yag

    Nothing good ever came from Africa...

    Herpes, AIDS, and even worse : the whole human race.


  10. Irony Deficient Silver badge

    obligatory reference

    Centurion: What’s this thing? “Ex Africa semper frigida ulcus”? Frigida ulcus? Ulcus is …

    Brian: Third declension noun, singular, nominative.

    Centurion: And frigida?

    Brian (hesitating): First declension adjective, singular.

    Centurion: Decline it!

    Brian: Frigidus, frigide, frigidum, frigidi, frigido, frigido.

    Centurion: Frigida?

    Brian: Ah, feminine, sir. Frigida, frigida, frigidam, …

    Centurion (interrupting): And ulcus is feminine?

    Brian: Yes. No! Ulcus is, er, masculine.

    Centurion: Masculine. What is its plural?

    Brian: Ulcera.

    Centurion (drawing his sword, holding it to Brian’s throat): Which makes it …?

    Brian: Neuter! Ulcus is neuter!

    Centurion: Frigida?

    Brian: Frigidum! Frigidum ulcus!

    Centurion (satisfied, sheathing his sword): Frigidum. -Um. Understand?

    Brian: Yes, sir.

    Centurion: Now write it down a hundred times.

    Brian: Yes sir, thank you sir, hail Caesar, sir.

    Centurion (saluting): Hail Caesar. If it’s not done by sunrise, I’ll cut your balls off.

    Brian: Oh thank you sir, thank you sir, hail Caesar and everything, sir!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: obligatory reference

      And exactly what was it that the Romans ever did for us (apart from bringing us herpes)?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...begun by a small group of pioneers..."


  12. True Thug

    I think this proves herpes came from africa.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Maybe. Did the Herpes Simplex Virus exist in animals in a previous evolutionary form? We're pretty confident the Human Immunodeficiency Virus evolved from the Simian version, so it's not outside the realm of possibility for the first human herpes infections to have come from animals: most likely primates or simians.

      1. Vociferous

        > Herpes Simplex Virus exist in animals in a previous evolutionary form?

        Yes. Herpes viruses are widespread, found in a wide range of animals.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        the first human herpes infections to have come from animals: most likely primates or simians"

        Sheep. Probably. Or so I'm told.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Sheep. Probably. Or so I'm told."


      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Makes you wonder what the africans were getting up to with green monkeys...........

  13. MondoMan

    Sadly, the study is not even worth the paper it (isn't) printed on

    The fatal flaw in this study is that the viruses sequenced were not random samples from a population, so we can't conclude anything about the population of all HSV1 viruses. Not just that, but 7/31 viruses (about 25% of those analyzed) were collected from eye tissue in Seattle, WA, while about half (15/31) were from unknown tissues in Kenya. Thus, the vast majority of samples analyzed here are either from Seattle eyes or from somewhere in Kenyans. Not quite the robust geographical coverage the abstract and news coverage imply, is it?

    Here's one simple alternative explanation for the data: the Kenyan samples represent most of the HSV1 viruses in the wild in non-eye tissues, while the Seattle virus grouping indicates a previously-unsuspected alternate sequence clade of HSV1 that provides a selective advantage for virus growth in eye tissue.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sadly, the study is not even worth the paper it (isn't) printed on

      Wasn't Obama's father a Kenyan and isn't his mother an American?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now why would a God....

    I imagine creationists don't get "monkey germs".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now why would a God....

      Only as a plague upon them for messing with green monkeys...........

  15. Frogmelon

    I don't mean to disparage the accomplishment of humans migrating out of Africa, but I noticed the line about humans "managing" to cross the Sahara.

    Given that the Sahara turned to desert in very recent history, it perhaps would not have been the barrier to migration 60-100,000 years ago that we see today.

  16. WD40

    So let me get this straight. All humans came "out of Africa". That means the ones that migrated to other areas evolved, and the ones that stayed....not so much.

    1. Frogmelon

      Just because a population stayed behind, it doesn't mean to say that they are any less evolved.

      The populations that migrated out and the populations that stayed behind may have responded to evolutionary pressures and mutations in some ways that would be similar while in other ways uniquely different.

      If there was no pressure to evolve, then perhaps you could argue differently, but I think we can agree that over the last tens of thousands of years there's been plenty of pressure for humanity to evolve, wherever the population has been located.

  17. SRS0001

    "All humans come from Africa."

    Bull. I'm from Louisiana.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I'm from Louisiana.

      It's OK. No one's perfect.

      1. SRS0001

        yeah, I know. You're not from Louisiana.

  18. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    land bridge

    The results also seem to back up the theory of a land bridge over the Bering Strait, due to the fact that a Asian strain was found in Texas.

    Sigh. No, all that suggests is that there was some migration from Asia to North America (assuming you agree this evidence is significant and supports the general hypothesis of the study). It does not endorse the land-bridge theory over its competitors.

    One or more land-bridge migrations may have occurred, but they're certainly not the only possibility.

  19. Michael Dunn


    Ex Africa semper aliquid novum?

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