Ancient herpes simplex 1 genomes reveal recent viral structure in Eurasia

M Guellil, Dorp L van, SA Inskip, JM Dittmar, L Saag, K Tambets, R Hui, A Rose, E D’Atanasio, A Kriiska, L Varul, A Koekkelkoren, RD Goldina, Craig Cessford, Anu Solnik, Mait Metspalu, Johannes Krause, Alexander Herbig, John E Robb, Charlotte J. Houldcroft* (Corresponding Author)CL Scheib

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paper


Human herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), a life-long infection spread by oral contact, today infects a majority of adults globally1, yet no ancient HSV-1 genomes have yet been published. Phylogeographic clustering of sampled diversity into European, pan-Eurasian, and African groups2, 3 has suggested that the virus co-diverged with anatomically modern humans migrating out of Africa4, although a much younger origin has also been proposed5. The lack of ancient HSV-1 genomes, high rates of recombination, and high mobility of humans in the modern era have impeded the understanding of HSV-1’s evolutionary history. Here we present three full ancient European HSV-1 genomes and one partial genome, dating to between the 3rd and 17th century CE, sequenced to up to 9.5× with paired human genomes up to 10.16×. These HSV-1 strains fall within modern Eurasian diversity. We estimate a mean mutation rate of 7.6 × 10-7 - 1.13 × 10-6 for non-African diversity leading to an estimated age of sampled modern Eurasian diversity to 4.68 (3.87 - 5.65) kya. Extrapolation of these rates indicate the age of sampled HSV-1 to 5.29 (4.60-6.12 kya, suggesting lineage replacement coinciding with late Neolithisation and implicating Bronze Age migrations6 in the distribution of HSV-1 through Eurasia.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Ancient herpes simplex 1 genomes reveal recent viral structure in Eurasia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this