How Herpes And Other Dormant Viruses Reactivate Explained In New Study

Herpes is one of the most well-known sexually transmitted infections among the general population. In fact, researchers suggest that most people throughout the world have some type of herpes. Different types of diseases exist. Some forms of herpes simply cause mild symptoms such as cold sores. Other types of these viral infections, however, can lead to cancer. 

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Once infected with herpes, the virus tends to become dormant after the first few weeks. At this point, the virus does not cause disease or symptoms. Many people with a herpes infection go on with no problems caused by the dormant virus at all. Others, however, tend to experience a recurrence of symptoms later on. 

New evidence now suggests having found the mechanism by which these dormant viruses tend to reactive in the human body. 

Study Finds Explanation For The Reactivation Of Dormant Viruses

It has been known that there are several viruses that can lie dormant in the body for decades at once. In some people, these viruses will never cause problems again. There are other cases where the virus tends to reactive, causing a person to start experiencing adverse effects years after the initial infection. 

Scientists were unable to provide evidence on why these dormant viruses reactive at specific times for many years. In recent studies, however, more advancements have been made on the topic. 

One study focused, particularly on herpes. Different types of these viruses exist, causing chickenpox, cold sores, mononucleosis, and, in some cases, cancer. The herpes virus linked to cancer causes a specific type of disease known as Kaposi’s sarcoma cancer. 

The initial study was performed on mouse models. The findings were later replicated in a series of human models who were previously infected with the herpes virus. 

The researchers found that a specific protein, known as interferon-gamma, was responsible for ensuring the herpes virus remained dormant in the patient’s body. 

Once the body was exposed to a helminth worm, the action of the interferon-gamma protein was inhibited. The helminth worm causes infection. This type of infection is relatively common in the sub-Saharan African population. Similarly, this population also has a high prevalence of Kaposi’s sarcoma – linked to a specific type of herpes. 

The immune system released interleukin 4, a different type of protein, when infected with the helminth worm. The release of this protein was the cause behind the inhibition of the function provided by the interferon-gamma protein. 

Herpes Virus Might Not Be The Only One

Recent studies claim to have found how certain dormant viruses may reactive years after the initial infection among the human population. A strong focus was placed on herpes viruses in the study, but researchers suggest that a similar pathway may be involved with other dormant viruses that are known to cause infection in the body. 

References

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db304.htm

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/345/6196/573.abstract?sid=5346be9c-7f85-4203-8891-d58cb24b6009

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