Today’s genital warts came from trysts between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens

Genital warts, or human papillomavirus (HPV), isn’t just a disease of the modern world and its newfangled sexual mores. In fact, various strains of HPV plagued our ancestors long before Homo sapiens evolved. A new study in Molecular Biology and Evolution reveals that when the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans left Africa over 500,000 years ago, they were already carrying a variant of HPV. The early humans who remained in Africa had their own variants of HPV, too. As the two populations evolved, their cancer-causing wart viruses evolved with them–until that fateful moment when Homo sapiens and Neanderthal came together, as it were.


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