Herpes Simplex Research

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The herpes simplex virus (HSV) which causes genital herpes, is very much on the increase with large populations suffering from this painful and unfortunately, lifelong sexually transmitted infection (STI).  A new study, led by a team of researchers at The Wistar Institute, which can be found in the journal, Cell Reports, has looked into exactly how the infection works in order to shed some light on how we might best treat the frustrating and steadily spreading STI.

There are two forms of the herpes simplex virus and they differ based on where in the body the virus lies dormant. Type 1 tends to lie dormant near the ear in a group of nerve cells. This is why this particular form of the virus tends to occur again and again on the lower lip or face in the form of cold sores. Type 2 lies dormant at the base of the spine and so, recurs around the genital region. 

This particular study looked at HSV 1 in particular and found that this strain of the virus actually interferes with telomeres. Telomeres are parts of the chromosome that protect it from damage, they stop the chromosome fraying or breaking. The herpes virus inhibits the action of this telomere and allows the HSV 1 to replicate in its place. According to researchers at The Wilstar Institute, this could be the case for other viruses too, the manipulation of telomeres solely for the purpose of virus replication.

Furthermore, this finding proves that the telomere proteins offer a protective function against viruses, which could help us learn more about protecting cells from viral infection. Interestingly, the results of previous studies have suggested that the length of the telomere is related to an increased risk of disease. This study puts even more emphasis on telomere length and the predicting of the susceptibility of young adults to disease. Findings like these could change the fate of millions and help us prevent serious conditions in later life.

Certain studies have shown that we can in fact control our telomere length by simply leading a healthy lifestyle, eating well, exercising, and yoga and meditation for stress relief is also thought to contribute to the lengthening of the telomere. This study and studies like it are so important, especially considering the fact that HSV not only causes cold sores, but also has the potential to cause more serious diseases encephalitis and even blindness. Furthermore, huge percentages of the populations of the States and Europe are reported to be infected with HSV 1 antibodies. The virus will always remain in the body but will sometimes be dormant. There is unfortunately no vaccination for HSV yet and the treatment range is limited.

You can read more about herpes and how it can affect eyes here.