Is There a Cure For Herpes?

Herpes is a painful, blistering rash that can leave scars. Blisters often appear on only one part of the body. Nerve pain caused by shingles can last for months or even years after the rash clears. There is no cure for Herpes registered, but a study is very close to the cure that promises success in the future.

The Cause of Herpes

Herpes is caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same that causes chickenpox. If you have had chickenpox, the virus may stay inactive in our nerves and can cause Herpes. The chickenpox virus remains inactive in certain nerves. If the virus becomes active again, usually in old age, it causes a painful disease called shingles. There is no way of knowing who will get herpes simplex virus (HSV) and when that is something individual. The older you are, the longer your shingles rash is likely to last.

Is Herpes Severe?

Facial paralysis can be temporary symptom of herpes

Shingles can be serious and cause a lot of pain. In most people, the pain that accompanies the rash subsides as the rash goes away. Some people who have had Herpes have described their pain in many ways, such as:

  • A burning or throbbing pain
  • A pain such as stitches, shocks, or pins
  • In shingles, things as mild as a breath of breeze or the rubbing of clothing against the skin can cause severe pain.

Other serious problems that can result from Herpes are:

  • Presence of scars
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Muscular weakness
  • Loss of hearing or vision
  • Pain in the ear
  • Temporary facial paralysis

For some people, pain that originates in the nerves can impede normal activities of daily life, such as walking, sleeping, or socializing. The pain can also be so debilitating that it impairs the ability to perform and makes shingles patients dependent on other people. Besides, it causes emotional distress. Shingles can even lead to hospitalization and, in very rare cases, lead to death.

Is There a Cure For Herpes?

It can appear at any time without prior warning. The first signs of shingles many times are silent and can't be seen. Among them, there may be itching, tingling, or burning. A few days later, a fluid-filled blistering rash appears, usually on only one side of the body or face. Sometimes the pain that precedes the rash can be mistaken for other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose shingles early.

You should know that the herpes virus has no cure.... or so it was believed. Viruses, unlike bacteria, cannot be cured with antibiotics or any other medicine (except exceptional cases); however, different non-pharmacological therapies can help fight viruses, one of the most famous being gene therapies. In the case of Herpes, there is recent research with this technique that could be very helpful in eradicating this virus.

The Cure For Herpes

Fred Hutchinson cancer research centre who are looking into the cure for herpes in all forms

A team of researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington have designed a new gene therapy to eliminate the herpes simplex virus in its latent form.

As we said above, the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is an infectious agent that can cause sores and wounds in different areas of the body, such as the mouth or face. The problem with this virus is that it remains in our body in an inactive form. Still, later in our lives, the virus can be latent in our body and can cause pain and the symptoms we explained. That is why a cure for Herpes would be very helpful for millions of people who suffer from this disease.

In the new study, published last August in Nature Communications, the group of researchers has demonstrated the efficacy, in animal models, of their new gene therapy for the elimination of latent HSV. The treatment consists of the administration of genetic components (two specific meganucleases) capable of editing the genome of the virus in its latent state, that is, of modifying its functions.

HSV Genome Editing

Previous studies had already shown in animal models that HSV type 1 genome editing is possible. However, the efficacy of these therapeutic strategies had been less than 4%. The new study, led by Dr. Keith Jerome, a virologist, and professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Washington, has succeeded in optimizing this gene therapy for real therapeutic benefit.

In their research, Jerome's team administered, via strands that can adhere to viral DNA, three meganucleases (components that modify DNA) in mice with HSV eye infections. These meganucleases are capable of breaking the DNA of the virus in 3 key points for its reproduction. One month after the infection, the authors took samples of the nervous tissue of the different treated mice and evaluated the effectiveness of the meganucleases. The results indicated that, in the mice treated with only one of them, the levels of gene editing were always less than 5%. In contrast, the team observed a 92% reduction in the virus genome in mice treated with two of the nucleases compared to control mice.

The authors attribute the increased effectiveness of the two combined meganucleases to the fact that the cells are unable to repair the damaged fragment since when there are two cuts, the cells seem to believe that the DNA of the virus is too damaged to be repaired and others molecular agents intervene to eliminate it.

Looking to the Future

Clinical trials are said to take place in the hope for a cure for herpes

Clinical trials are said to take place in the hope for a cure for herpes

This study represents an innovation in the possible treatments against HSV until now focused on suppressing the appearance of symptoms. Dr. Jerome hopes that this study improves the discussion about the virus research and opens up the notion that we can start considering a cure for Herpes rather than just managing the illness.

Researchers are developing a similar strategy for HSV type 2, which causes genital Herpes and promotes the development of cervical cancer. This therapy is expected to take at least three years to reach the clinical trial phase.

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