Australian researchers said that they have cracked the code which could lead to keeping the dreaded herpes virus, which causes cold sores, at bay for good.
They said on Wednesday in Canberra that the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is known to remain dormant in an infected person’s nerve cells long after any cold sores have healed.
The scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) said that they have discovered that, even while dormant, the herpes genes are constantly trying to re-energise the infection.
Prof. David Tscharke, Leader of the team from the ANU, said that now that the scientists understood how the gene behaves, work can begin on how to stop the infection.
He noted that the infection affected not less than 70 per cent of people aged 50 and below, from coming back for good.
“If the virus was to stay dormant for ever that would be a very good thing because obviously you would not be getting recurrent lesions.
“If people get this infection in their eye it is particularly troublesome because the recurrent infection scars the cornea, so if you have too many occurrences it can cause blindness,’’ he said.
Tscharke said while there hasn’t been a lot of progress in permanently destroying the herpes virus in recent times, this new discovery could speed up the development of a more permanent cure.
The team leader said currently there is no cure for the herpes virus, rather, a number of different antiviral solutions which manage symptoms.
Tscharke said in spite of the symptom management, the genes are continuously trying to force the reappearance of lesions.
He said statistically more than 3.7 billion people under 50 years of age have HSV-1 – the herpes strain which causes cold sores, while an estimated 417 million people aged 15-29 worldwide are infected with HSV-2, or genital herpes.