Scientists find new understanding of why herpes can't be cured
A study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology reveals that the immune system may have greater trouble controlling the herpes group cytomegalovirus (CMV) and preventing breakouts when it has to combat other viral or bacterial infections as well.
The researchers looked at a group of mice with latent herpes, and they observed that when the mice had a bacterial infection, their T-cells, or the "brakes", which control the CMV outbreaks, decreased in number.
"Because almost all people are infected by one or more herpes family viruses during their lifetime, the potential impact of these findings are significant," said research author Charles H. Cook, M.D., FACS, FCCM, director of surgical critical care at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "We hope that by understanding how these latent viral infections are controlled that we can prevent reactivation events and improve people's lives."
Genital herpes statistics and transmission
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one out of every 16 people from 14 to 49 years old has genital herpes, which can be detected with herpes 2 testing.
Herpes is usually transmitted through skin to skin contact during sexual intercourse, the CDC reports. While the virus is found in open sores, which is a symptom of the herpes infection, it can also be passed between partners even if there are no apparent sores. It is easier for women to get herpes from a partner than it is for men to get it from women, so females are more likely to have the infection.
The CDC notes that many people who have herpes don't have any symptoms of the infection or don't know that they have it. When someone does have a herpes "outbreak" they usually get blisters around the genitals or mouth, which can take up to a month to heal.