HSV-1 Infection Held Up in an Unsuspected Way


Research has suggested that one or two herpes viruses stop to attack skin cells before entering the body, leaving a window of opportunity to treat the disease before infection occurs during this early stage.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has published a report from researchers at Princeton University indicating that most viruses spread by throwing millions of particles at cells, but this is not the case with the HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus type 1). This virus (responsible for both genital legions and cold sores) just sends in one or two particles during the initial invasion of skin cells in order to form cold sores.

This was shocking to researchers since the disease is known to produce hundreds of particles within a cell according to Matthew Taylor who is the author of the study. What causes the hold up?

HSV-1 particles can remain dormant in a person for years after infection. The first stage of sore formation is when these cells awaken and infect nearby skin cells, beginning the process of forming a cold sore. Once this happens the virus replicates rapidly and we see the millions of copies as a visible cold sore. This is when the disease becomes transferable via skin to skin contact.

The fact that the cold sore is made up of just one or two particles initially means that when the disease is spread there is very little genetic diversity to it. This really should hurt the diseases’ ability to grow and spread since it lacks a variety of genomes. This is in sharp contrast with the way that HIV spreads with its many particles and distinct genomes. The result is that if any mutation weakens the HSV-1 virus, it becomes highly unlikely to be able to adapt and survive.

This results in two things. First, only the most fit particles survive. While that doesn’t sound positive, it also means that the disease can be targeted by specific treatment since it is not genetically diverse. Researchers in Tel Aviv are now working on drugs that can attack the disease at this vulnerable point.

Researchers are also looking into alpha-herpes viruses to see if they share the same weakness. Among these viruses are HSV-2 and the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles. Even West Nile virus and poliovirus are being looked into.

Scientists are excited to find that while the transmission of these diseases is very efficient, the means may also leave a window of opportunity for treatment.

The research was color coded in red, green, and blue using different viral genomes. Infected cells could thus be examined for particles in a particular color revealing the number of particles that had breached a cell. The method was developed in the math department in Princeton. The results showed an average of two or fewer viral genomes infecting cells.

The process was repeated with the pseudorabies virus, an alpha-herpes virus that is particular to animals. The results were the same.

HIV Mothers Can Pass on More than Just the Disease


A recent study has shown that babies born to mothers with HIV that don’t receive the disease still suffer greater risks to other diseases. In particular they have less immunity to the measles. This makes early immunization a must for the babies of HIV mothers in order to prevent this potentially deadly disease from being contracted by the infant.

The reason for this is suspected to be that immunity to measles generally comes from the mother and is not available from the immune-compromised mother with HIV. In its November issue, the Acta Paediatrica published this study. The World Health Organization has been focused on the elimination of measles for a while. This may be a little a setback in their quest as more infants will be open to the disease, especially in some of the poorer nations of Africa where immunization is not as available, and yet there are many HIV positive mothers.

Measles is still one of the biggest killers when it comes to children. Pneumonia, blindness, diarrhea, and dehydration are just some the complications of the disease that make it so life threatening. There were 139,300 deaths from this extremely contagious disease in 2010 alone. But these numbers have actually been curbed by immunization. Back in the 80’s, the death toll from measles was totaling over two and half million per year. Now, because 85% of children are immunized by age one, that number, while still tragic, has been greatly reduced.

The test was done by comparing the blood samples of ten babies from HIV positive mothers who were not born with HIV, with the blood of ten healthy babies whose mothers did not have HIV. The researchers found a dramatic difference in the antibodies of the babies from the HIV positive mothers who could not pass on immunities like the mother without HIV did.

While most babies are immune to measles for a little while after birth and have time to wait for immunization, babies born from HIV positive mothers lose their immunity much faster and need to be immunized much sooner to prevent risk of infection.

Fast And Effective Hep C Testing Is Here


The key to survival for someone who contracts Hepatitis C is early detection. That makes timely testing crucial to helping curb this disease. Well here’s some good news! New research has shown that on site rapid response testing is just as accurate as having blood sent away to the lab. The McGill University Health Centre is where this study was done. What does this mean for Hep C screening?

Now that the study has been published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, medical facilities around the world will likely begin using this just as an effective, far more efficient testing method. The result may be fewer cases of Hepatitis C on a global scale, since individuals will discover they have the disease sooner. This can lead to slowing the spread.

Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, one of the researchers involved in the testing, says that rapid testing done at medical facilities is 97 to 99 percent accurate. Convenience will mean more will get tested, and those who do will get immediate results. The tests involve blood and oral elements.

This will be particularly important in developing countries where lab work is not available to everyone. Usually in these places a person must be high-risk or showing significant symptoms of the disease before testing can be done. Results only take one week, but the results are usually given to the patient during a follow-up visit. which may be months later. In the meantime, the patient may pass the disease on to others without knowing, resulting in potential community outbreaks.

30 minutes is all these new point-of-care tests require. The patient can sit in the waiting room and get results. Even medical facilities in areas without electricity will be able to perform these simple and accurate tests. Because no specialized equipment is needed, it will be accessible to a maximum number of people, even those forced to go to facilities in poorer areas.

People across the globe have been infected with Hepatitis C by means of unsafe blood transfusions as well as dirty needles (whether for illicit drug use of legitimate purposes). The figures now stand at over 170 million people infected with figures continuing to rise especially in Asia and Africa where testing and treatment are more limited. Some are optimistic that this new simple testing procedure along with oral treatments may be able to turn the tide against Hepatitis C.

Several professors at McGill University and McGill Medical School joined forces with several professors from the UK to research and analyze the results of these tests.

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