Study finds specific gene linked to cold sore susceptibility

October 28, 2011, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Investigators have identified a human chromosome containing a specific gene associated with susceptibility to herpes simplex labialis (HSL), the common cold sore. Published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases and now available online, the study looks at how several genes may affect the severity of symptoms and frequency of this common infection. The findings, if confirmed, could have implications for the development of new drugs to treat outbreaks.

HSL outbreaks, or cold sores, are skin infections that appear with the reactivation of , a virus that infects 70 percent of the U.S. population. Cold sore outbreaks vary in frequency and severity; some people may experience symptoms rarely, only once every 5 to 10 years, while others may experience them once a month or even more frequently. In addition to investigating environmental activating factors (e.g., sunlight) that may play a role in outbreaks, researchers for some time have been looking at the possible role of genetic factors in virus susceptibility and activation.

This study, led by John D. Kriesel, MD, and colleagues from the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, follows previous studies identifying a region of chromosome 21 as a base for genes possibly linked to cold sore outbreaks. To identify which of six possible genes in this region were associated with the frequency of outbreaks, this latest study used single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping in genome-wide, family-based linkage studies of 618 people from 43 large families. The investigators found a positive link between the frequency of outbreaks, hereditability, and the presence of a specific gene, C21orf91, on .

"While these findings await confirmation in a larger, unrelated population," the study authors note, "these findings could have important implications for the development of that affect determinants of the cold sore phenotype."

In an accompanying editorial, Anthony L. Cunningham, MD, and David Booth, MD, of the Centre for Virus Research and the Institute of Immunology and Allergy Research at Westmead Millennium Institute and the University of Sydney in Australia, note that if the findings regarding the C21orf91 gene are confirmed, additional research may then begin to determine possible therapeutic applications and whether the same gene also plays a role in recurring genital herpes.

Explore further: Recurring genital problems could be herpes

Related Stories

Recurring genital problems could be herpes

April 11, 2011
A study of patients attending sexual health clinics in Gothenburg found that just four out of ten patients with genital herpes actually knew that they had the disorder. However, a third of those who did not realise that they ...

Genital herpes more virulent in Africa than in US

April 15, 2011
Strains of genital herpes in Africa are far more virulent than those in the United States, researchers at Harvard Medical School report, a striking insight into a common disease with important implications for preventing ...

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.