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Scientists learn why even treated genital herpes sores boost the risk of HIV infection
Date:8/2/2009

New research helps explain why infection with herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), which causes genital herpes, increases the risk for HIV infection even after successful treatment heals the genital skin sores and breaks that often result from HSV-2.

Scientists have uncovered details of an immune-cell environment conducive to HIV infection that persists at the location of HSV-2 genital skin lesions long after they have been treated with oral doses of the drug acyclovir and have healed and the skin appears normal. These findings are published in the advance online edition of Nature Medicine on Aug. 2.

Led by Lawrence Corey, M.D., and Jia Zhu, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Anna Wald, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington, both in Seattle, the study was funded mainly by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) with support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, both part of the National Institutes of Health.

"The findings of this study mark an important step toward understanding why HSV-2 infection increases the risk of acquiring HIV and why acyclovir treatment does not reduce that risk," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Understanding that even treated HSV-2 infections provide a cellular environment conducive to HIV infection suggests new directions for HIV prevention research, including more powerful anti-HSV therapies and ideally an HSV-2 vaccine."

One of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide, HSV-2 is associated with a two- to three-fold increased risk for HIV infection. Some HSV-2-infected people have recurring sores and breaks in genital skin, and it has been hypothesized that these lesions account for the higher risk of HIV acquisition. However, recent clinical trials, including an NIAID-funded study completed last year, demonstrated that successful treatment of such genital herpes l
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Contact: Laura Sivitz
sivitzl@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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