The various forms of herpes have been with us since the early days of mankind. It is one of the oldest sexually transmitted diseases and has been documented and attempted to treat over thousands of years. The first documented evidence came from the times of ancient Greece, around 450 BC. It was the Hippocrates which first wrote about the physical symptoms of herpes.
In fact, it was from the ancient Greeks that the word “herpes” originated, derived from the Greek word “herpein”. Herpein means to crawl and creep, a reference to the ways the herpes sores migrate over an infected area.
In the times of the Roman Empire, The Emperor Tiberius was so concerned about the spread of the cold sores (HSV1) that during any public ceremonies or celebrations, he banned kissing altogether. Although this might be considered a little drastic, what the Roman physician named Celcus had in mind was far more concerning. His preferred method of treatment was to cauterize open herpes sores with a red hot poker! There is little documented evidence as to whether this method of treatment was successful, however I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it is no longer practiced today!
It was not until the late 1800’s that physicians finally began to truly understand herpes. In 1893, a French physician named Emile Vidal proved for the first time that the herpes virus is transmitted from one person to another. In 1896, a German physician named Paul Unna developed a way to differentiate the herpes virus from syphilis under a microscope. This was a breakthrough at the time because under microscopic examination, herpes and syphilis were often confused with each other, leading to mis-diagnosis.
In the 1900’s, a German ophthalmologist created a new test to determine the diagnosis of herpes in a patient. The virus was first transmitted from an infected patient to the cornea of a rabbit. It was then transmitted back to a human, confirming diagnosis. This process was named the Grater test, which amazingly was used until the 1940’s to diagnose herpes.
In 1925 it was proven for the first time by an American virologist, that herpes travels through the human body via our central nervous system, and not through the blood stream as previously thought.
The big breakthrough in treating herpes came in 1978 when the anti-viral medication Acyclovir was developed and test on human herpes sufferers first took place. In 1981, Acyclovir became commercially available. To date, there is no known cure for herpes, however, simple changes in diet, lifestyle and taking supplements are proven to prevent future herpes outbreaks.