NHS Leadership

Herpes and Other Virus Detection Technique

When people hear the word herpes they think of sexually transmitted infections but the herpes virus comes in two forms, HSV-1 and HSV-2, the latter being the sexually transmitted virus, which usually causes blistering in the genital reasons. However, many of us have HSV-1 and this often manifests itself physically in the form of chicken pox or the common cold sore. Learning more about these common viruses and how they work has the potential to impact upon detection rates for existing and newer viruses and also helps us prepare for potential outbreaks of new viruses.


New research shows how this common virus is taking control of our cells in order to hide it from our immune system thus highlighting exactly how the virus affects the cell rather than the immune system, which has always been a primary focus of research on the virus. The latest research is published in the journal Nature Communications.


They describe how HSV-1 actually puts its DNA into the DNA of our cells and inhibits the production of proteins. Instead it uses our cells to make its own cell proteins. It is also able to remain undetectable to the immune system, which would normally be able to see that cells are behaving strangely and kill them. Instead they go on replicating endlessly.


Their study offers incite into the general study of the effects of viruses on cells and protein production. Further study will continue in this area and in herpes in general. There are multiple studies on the go at the moment regarding the relationship between herpes and Alzheimer's for example. Right now some very convincing research is being carried out into how the herpes virus can help us fight against kill skin cancer cells. So, the more we know about how it all works, the better.


On this note, a new test called Virscan has received some interest in the last few weeks. This test detects viruses in the blood, even viruses that are no longer present. Our blood literally keeps a record of viruses we have come into contact with. Now patients can request this test, developed at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and get a complete record of their viral history with just one quick blood test. The study based on the test is published in the journal Science.


This data is available to us from our blood because the immune system increases its production of antibodies for specific pathogens when under threat, but actually continues to produce these antibodies for years thereafter, even when the infection is eradicated. What surfaced from this study was that the most common viruses were from the herpes family, flu and common colds, but this sort of test will be essential in the future in the area of new outbreaks and quicker detection rates for viruses such as HIV and Hep C. These are viruses that might otherwise remain undetected for years after infection.


If you are based in the UK then you can get a virus testing online from www.theSTIclinic.com where testing from tiny blood samples by post is available. 

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