Herpes Outbreaks Determined by Immune Genes?

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immunity genes

The medical journal PLoS Pathogens associates a “genetic mutation and the clinical severity of recurrent cases of HSV-1 infection (cold sores).” (1)

Cold sores are blisters that appear on and around the lips. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people are infected with the virus.

Now, a study explains that a genetic variation is the reason why some people get cold sores more often than others.

An article on WebMD’s website quotes Professor Juergen Haas, of the University of Edinburgh, who said that “Most people carry the cold sore strain of the herpes simplex virus, but until now we never knew why only some of them develop cold sores (2).” The WebMD article was published on September 17, 2013.

herpes virus

The university researchers discovered that the genetic variation determines the immune system’s ability to fight the herpes virus. During the study, Scottish researchers analyzed blood samples from people suffering from cold sores and, “found that they have a mutation in a gene called IL28b. This mutation means the body can’t mount an adequate immune response to HSV-1 (2).”

The bottom line?

Knowing that some peoples’ genetics can lower their immune system’s efficiency, which allows the herpes virus to cause cold sores more often, reinforces the need to help the immune system target the latent virus before it reactivates.


(1) Samantha J. Griffiths, Manfred Koegl, Chris Boutell, Helen L. Zenner, Colin M. Crump, Francesca Pica, Orland Gonzalez, Caroline C. Friedel, Gerald Barry, Kim Martin, Marie H. Craigon, Rui Chen, Lakshmi N. Kaza, Even Fossum, John K. Fazakerley, Stacey Efstathiou, Antonio Volpi, Ralf Zimmer, Peter Ghazal, Jürgen Haas “A Systematic Analysis of Host Factors Reveals a Med23-Interferon-λ Regulatory Axis against Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Replication” PLoS Pathogens – Published August 8, 2013

(2) Preidt, R. “Frequent Cold Sores Tied to Genetic Mutation” – WebMD.com

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