Herpes remains active even when no symptoms appear

July 29, 2014, Australian National University

Scientists investigating the herpes virus have been surprised to find an ongoing conflict in the cells of sufferers, even when the virus is apparently dormant.

Herpes Simplex Type 1 is a virus that causes cold sores. It remains in the body's nervous system indefinitely after infection. Around 80 per cent of Australians carry the virus, although it is usually in a dormant state.

"We thought when the disease was dormant, it was a truce," said Associate Professor David Tscharke from The Australian National University Research School of Biology. "It turns out that the virus is waking up more often than we thought, but our are constantly pushing it down."

The findings could lead to new treatments, and give researchers insights into why cold sores only flare up sporadically and why some infected people never suffer cold sores at all.

Associate Professor Tscharke's team used both cells and viruses that were genetically modified so that changed colour to a bright yellow, even if the virus was dormant.

These individual cells were then identified using a microscope equipped with laser that can be used to cut them out, allowing their level of virus activity to be measured.

"We expected that we would see no activity in the dormant cells," Associate Professor Tscharke said.

"The surprise came when we found the virus was doing something in many cells. Not all of these cells have the same level of virus activity either. For some it's very low and in others more of the virus genes are turned on. The host cells were responding most strongly when there was lots of activity.

"When we thought there was nothing going on we had no targets to look at. Now we know there is an interaction we can look for ways to help the good guys to win."

The research is published in PLOS Pathogens.

Explore further: Cold sore linked to mutation in gene, study suggests

More information: PLOS Pathogens. Published: July 24, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004237

Related Stories

Cold sore linked to mutation in gene, study suggests

September 16, 2013
Why some people are troubled by cold sores while others are not has finally been explained by scientists.

Study reveals new approach for stopping herpes infections

March 25, 2013
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a novel strategy for preventing infections due to the highly common herpes simplex viruses, the microbes responsible for causing genital ...

Fighting parasitic infection inadvertently unleashes dormant virus

June 26, 2014
Signals from the immune system that help repel a common parasite inadvertently can cause a dormant viral infection to become active again, a new study shows.

A mini-antibody with broad antiviral activity chews up viral DNA and RNA

June 26, 2014
Antibodies and their derivatives can protect plants and animals—including humans—against viruses. Members of this class of drugs are usually highly specific against components of a particular virus, and mutations in the ...

Clinical trial of herpes vaccine now enrolling patients

July 28, 2014
Creating a successful vaccine against two members of the family, the sexually transmitted herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2), has proven to be challenging. A clinical trial being conducted by a branch of the National ...

Herpes infected humans before they were human 1.6 million years ago

June 11, 2014
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the evolutionary origins of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 and -2, reporting that the former infected hominids before their evolutionary ...

Recommended for you

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

Scientists unleash power of genetic data to identify disease risk

January 16, 2018
Massive banks of genetic information are being harnessed to shed new light on modifiable health risks that underlie common diseases.

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.