MadSci Network: Virology

Re: what makes herpes incurable and is there an expected cure ever?

Date: Wed Oct 11 22:01:19 2000
Posted By: Michel Ouellet, Grad student in Microbiology / Immunology
Area of science: Virology
ID: 970377816.Vi

Hi Alexis,

What makes herpes incurable is that it hides itself very well from the 
immune system and that once someone has caught it, it remains inside that 
person's body forever.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infects epithelial cells (skin cells) and 
replicate in them quite rapidly but the immune system fights off the 
infection in about two weeks because the replication is high and that HSV 
does not "hide" in skin cells.  During the first infection, however,  some 
viruses also infect sensitive nerves near the site of infection and are 
transported along the axons to the neuron itself where it enters a latent 
stage.  During this time, the virus' DNA is circular and the virus does not 
express any of its proteins, which makes it "invisible" to the immune 

Following reactivation of the latent virus after, for example, exposure to 
cold, UV light, stress, or if the patient becomes immunocompromised, the 
virus migrate again towards the epithelium along the axons to infect 
epithelial cells and cause lesions.

Once a neuron is infected, it remains infected for the rest of the person's 
life and, depending on each individuals, reactivation can occur once, twice 
or up to 20 times a year... or only once every 5, 10, 20 years!

The only thing doctors can do to help patients with herpes is to limit the 
replication of the virus using antivirals that targets HSV specifically.  
Some drugs already exist on the market for that (in Canada at least...).  
The topic application of these drugs reduce the length of the reactivation 
events by 5 to 7 days (so that people suffer 1 week instead of 2...).  

Infected people can also help themselves by limiting their exposure to the 
reactivating agents and to keep their immune system strong.  

Scientists try to come up with new ways to fight off HSV by 
developing agents that boost the immune system during a reactivation event, 
or even maybe a vaccine.  A vaccine against HSV is very hard to develop 
since it is a very sneaky virus so that it may be quite a while before one 
comes available. It seems possible though!  So there is still hope to find 
a way to prevent HSV infection, if not to cure it altogether.

I hope this answered your question.



Current Queue | Current Queue for Virology | Virology archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Virology.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2000. All rights reserved.