Herpes simplex ‘bottleneck’ might lead to treatment
As the herpes virus multiplies and creates cold sores on the skin, it goes through a “bottleneck” of sorts — which can mean the virus is vulnerable to treatments during this stage, according a one new study.
The researchers looked at the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), that many people have become infected with as a child. HSV-1 lives inside the nerve cells, and can stay dormant for many years before making its way to the skin cells where they produce the cold sore.
The researchers found that even though hundreds of virus particles can be lying dormant inside the nerve cells, it only takes one or two to make the trip to a skin cell. Once it is inside the skin cell, the virus then multiplies and goes to other skin cells, creating the cold sore.
This bottleneck might be a point where the infection is much more susceptible to drug treatments. Though, the study was conducted using cells in lab dishes, so way more research will be needed to confirm the same thing also happens in animals and people. It’s way too soon to say how this could turn into treatments.
Right now, there’s no way for us to cure an HSV-1 infection. Though anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve symptoms for awhile, they can’t attack the virus itself. (HSV-1 may also cause genital herpes, though most of these cases are created by the related virus, herpes simplex virus type 2.)
The study also shed light on why the herpes virus is such an efficient pathogen — only the strongest viruses will spread from the nerve cells to the skin surface, which can then get on to other people. Weak virus particles would be very unlikely to make it through this journey.
The researchers think their findings may also apply to viruses that are like the HSV-1, like chickenpox, though more research will be needed to confirm this.