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Study finds genetic link to human herpes susceptibility
Date:1/28/2008

. population or approximately 50 million people. Between 5 million and 10 million people in this group have recognized cases of genital herpes.

To search for cold sore susceptibility genes, the U researchers used linkage analysis, which traces genetic markers in families to identify regions on chromosomes that harbor disease genes. When genetic mutations are passed from parent to offspring, genetic markers near the disease gene are passed along as well. By identifying markers shared among family members, researchers can locate regions of chromosomes where genes responsible for disease may lie. The U of U study was the first whole-genome study of herpes simplex virus to use linkage analysis.

The researchers studied 421 people from 39 large Utah families. The families are part of a genomic study called the Utah Genetic Reference Project. Participants were grouped according to how often they experienced cold sore outbreaks:

  • Frequently affectedHSV-1 infected and two or more outbreaks annually (89 participants)
  • Mildly affectedHSV-1 infected and two or less outbreaks annually (111)
  • UnaffectedHSV-1 infected but had never experienced an outbreak (85)
  • Unknown or HSV uninfectedcould not be categorized (146)

The researchers compared the frequently affected and unaffected groups (both proven to be HSV-1 infected) to allow the greatest possible distinction in the expression of outbreaks. Participants who couldnt be categorized were excluded from the linkage analysis, as were the 111 mildly affected people. When all the genetics data were collected, a mathematical analysis determined the odds of a link between cold sores and the long arm of chromosome 21 to be at least 1,000-to-1.

The probable genetic link is not the only component believed to trigger reactivation of HSV and cold sores. Environmental factors, such as fever, wind, and sunburn, also are believed to play a part. Viral factors, like strain a
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Contact: Phil Sahm
psahm@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-2517
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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