Driving herpes simplex out of hiding could bring about a cure, scientists say
WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Millions of Americans are afflicted by breakouts of unsightly cold sores, caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus, but new research is finally offering them the possibility of a cure.
Scientists at Duke University say they've unlocked the mystery of how herpes simplex 1 slips into dormancy and stays dormant -- evading the drugs that might otherwise wipe it out.
Buoyed by that finding, the same team is testing an experimental agent that can "reawaken" the virus, so it might be flushed out into the open and eradicated.
The hope is that, "we could use the drugs that we already have, plus an effective immune system, to cure a person from infection," explained lead researcher Jennifer Lin Umbach, a postdoctoral associate in Duke's department of molecular genetics and microbiology.
She and her colleagues published their findings July 2 in the online edition of Nature.
According to the American Social Health Association, up to 80 percent of American adults are infected with herpes simplex 1. Many, but not all, will suffer outbreaks involving unsightly, painful sores around the lips and mouth.
Certain drugs, such as the antibiotic acyclovir, can help prevent or curb outbreaks, but there is no way of eliminating the virus, and infection typically lasts a lifetime.
Between outbreaks, herpes simplex 1 enters long periods of "latency," hiding inside neurons within the face's trigeminal nerve. In this state, the virus is largely inactive and invulnerable.
"There's no way for either the drugs that we have or for our immune systems to recognize the virus or do anything about it," Umbach explained.
During outbreaks some, but not all, of the viral particles do reactivate and replicate. Scientists have long sought a method of driving all of the vir
All rights reserved