A Brief History of Herpes

In this section, we are going to talk about the history of herpes. Herpes isn’t some new occurrence. In fact, the word “herpes” is more than twenty-five centuries old. It can be traced back to Ancient Greek era. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, gave a name to the infection, and it means “to creep.”

During those days, diseases and infection were always named and classified according to the way they appeared as well as what they did to the human body. While we weren’t very close to knowing how it acts back then, physicians did have a common notion of what it did to a person’s body, and there’s enough evidence that it’s been around for a really long time in the history of the humans.

In fact, it’s even believed that the poet William Shakespeare was acquainted with the lesions herpes simplex manifests and how they’re transmitted. This evidence is derived from a part in “Romeo and Juliet” where he wrote Queen Mab to state, “O’er ladies lips, who straight on kisses dream, which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.”

A French Scientist Discovers How Herpes is Transmitted

French scientist Vidal discovers that herpes is transmitted via contact-to-contact transmission
History of Herpes: French scientist Vidal discovers that herpes is transmitted via contact-to-contact transmission

So history states that for a long time, some herpes form has been around. Despite all this proof, it wasn’t until 1893 when the French scientist Vidal recognized that person-to-person transmission of the infection exists.

Prior to this discovery, we did not know much about the condition as well as how to prevent or treat it. During the 20th century, research on HSV indeed took off. Studies on its histopathology characterized the huge multinucleated cells associated with the infection. In 1919, the scientist Lowenstein confirmed via experiments HSV’s infectious nature that Shakespeare had simply suspected before. This was a discovery in the infection and how it’s transmitted from one individual to another.

HSV in the 20th Century

In the ‘20s and ‘30s, the HSV’s history was widely studied and deliberated, and it was discovered that HSV not only infects the skin but the central nervous system as well. By the ‘40s and ‘50s, research persisted on the numerous diseases and infections caused by HSV. More new research has centered on antiviral studies, differences between herpes simplex virus strains, and utilizing HSV vectors in vaccines to aid to prevent the infection and come up with a cure.

herpes in the 20th century
History of Herpes: Herpes in the 20th Century

Chickenpox (Varicella-Zoster Virus) has an extensive recorded history as well. But, historical accounts frequently fail to differentiate between the pockmarks caused by smallpox and those caused by VZV. During the late 18th century, Heberden found a way to make a clinical distinction between both diseases. In 1888, von Bokay suggested that herpes zoster and chickenpox were caused by the same type of agent or virus. It wasn’t until in 1952 that Weller and Stoddard isolated both viruses from zoster and chickenpox, and compared both viruses that the connection was verified. Herpes zoster and chickenpox are indeed caused by the same virus!

The Herpes Virus Evolves

On the other hand, medicine’s knowledge of herpes has remained to come a long way ever since those ancient beginnings. Now we know that the herpes infection is caused by what’s called a filterable virus. This means that the virus is so minute that a particle may pass through a filter and not being seen by a microscope.

And still, these filterable viruses are infamous for causing numerous conditions and diseases like polio, rhinovirus (common cold), hepatitis, influenza, and the different herpes viruses.

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