The study shows that the 3 present-day viruses were found in the bones of Neanderthals

The study shows that the 3 present-day viruses were found in the bones of

The genetic sequences of three types of viruses that are now widely circulating were isolated from the bones of two Neanderthal individuals who lived in Russia 50,000 years ago.

These are the oldest human viruses ever traced, as the previous record belonged to a pathogen 31,000 years ago, found in the teeth of an ancient Homo Sapiens in northeastern Siberia.

But where did Neanderthals get sick? How did these viruses reproduce and how infectious were they compared to their modern descendants? This is the question asked by Marcelo Briones, Professor of Genomics and Bioinformatics at the Federal University of São Paulo (Brazil), author of the study published in "bioRxiv".

In the skeletal remains of two Neanderthals found in Chagyrskaya Cave, Russia, Briones and his colleagues isolated the genetic profile of an adenovirus, which today causes cold symptoms; of a herpesvirus, which causes cold sores, and of a papillomavirus, which can cause genital warts and tumors.

By comparing these genetic sequences with those of modern counterparts of these viruses, the team ruled out that the Neanderthal bones were contaminated by the pathogens of some of the scientists working on them. In other words, it is certain that before Homo sapiens, these viruses actually infected Neanderthals.