Why Herpes Won't Go Away: An Expert's Perspective

When one of the two strains of the sexually transmitted virus enters the body through genital tissue, it travels to neurons near the spine that the body's defenses have learned not to destroy, even when infected, because they don't regenerate easily. Scientists have developed an injection that can track down infected nerve cells and induce them to produce special enzymes that act like molecular scissors, cutting viral genes in specific locations. This has been a major breakthrough in herpes cure research over the past five years. Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV may have a higher concentration of HIV virus in their body due to the interaction between the two viruses.

The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection, since VZV is also latent in sensory nerve roots. Advances in gene-editing tools have been instrumental in helping researchers make progress in finding a cure for herpes. However, it will still be a long time before these experiments lead to the first human trials of gene therapy to cure herpes. Herpes medications may not be as effective in patients who are very immunosuppressed and have been treated with these medications for a long time.

Neonatal herpes is when a pregnant person transmits the infection to the fetus before, during, or immediately after delivery. Medications have come a long way in helping to suppress herpes and it is possible that it can be cured in the future. A new drug called pritelivir is currently undergoing clinical trials as a treatment for herpes symptoms. To prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes, it is important not to kiss or have sex with anyone when there are herpes sores present.

A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other is not infected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in more than 90% of cases. False-negative herpes tests can occur if samples are not taken properly, if there is a long time of transportation between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were done at the end of the evolution of lesions. To reduce risk of transmission, condoms are strongly recommended for couples where one partner has herpes. If you have blisters in your genital area, your doctor may request a test to determine if you have genital herpes.

Many people don't realize they have genital herpes until a blood test reveals that they have antibodies to the virus. According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of the world's population under 50 are carriers of HSV-1, which mainly causes cold sores, while 491 million people between 15 and 49 are infected with HSV-2, which is responsible for sexually transmitted genital herpes.