• Wed. Dec 8th, 2021

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Common colds predate farming and may be older than our species

New Scientist Default Image

A colourised image of human cells infected with the herpes simplex virus

David M. Phillips/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Common colds and cold sores have afflicted us for at least 31,000 years, according to a study that found DNA from viruses in ancient teeth.

What’s more, the sniffles may have plagued us for far longer. The DNA of one virus suggests it first evolved around 700,000 years ago – suggesting viruses that cause colds predate our species, and also troubled our Neanderthal cousins.

The preserved virus is “the oldest virus in humans yet”, says Sofie Holtsmark …