Why Do So Many People Have Herpes?

I have herpes! And I bet you do too! Hey guys. Julia here for DNews Yup it’s true, I’m just one of millions
of people who have herpes type 1. I’ve had cold sores on my lips plenty of times in my
life. They’re painful, gross, and unfortunately incurable. It’s caused by a virus and spread
by contact. A very common virus. Nearly 2/3s of everyone on this planet has one of two
strains [[of what]] that usually causes painful and irritating sores on the lips and genitals.
And some estimates say as many as 90% of adults have some strain of it. While they are 8 different
strains of the virus, most people are familiar and infected with type 1 and type 2. There
are other types of herpes as well. Type cause the chicken pox, mono or other less well known
diseases. Human herpes simplex virus (HSV) is ancient.
According to a study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, the HSV-1
strain is over 6 million years old. The other strain is significantly younger, HSV-2 was
contracted in humans from Chimpanzees over 1.6 million years ago. Which means it was
a part of our lives before we were even human.

It’s a strong sucker. A study published
in the journal of the American Chemical Society found that the DNA in a virus body is tightly
packed and under high pressure. This pressure allows it to be powerfully injected into a
host’s cells. It then turns the cell into a virus making factory, turning out more copies
of itself. Since the virus never goes away, herpes is
in a constant battle with your immune system. Most of the time your immune system is winning
and the virus is latent and dormant in your nerve cells.

Well… maybe not entirely dormant
according to research from the Australian National University. Researchers found that
the virus is actually pretty active, but our immune cells “are constantly pushing it
down." And since HSV is an old virus, it’s evolved
some tricks of its own. HSV-1 actually rearranges our telomeres according to a study published
in the journal Cell Reports. Telomeres are the caps on our DNA, often compared to the
plastic tips on your shoelaces. They serve pretty much the same function, they keep the
strands of DNA from fraying. The virus attacks telomeres in a few ways, but basically it
degrades a telomere protein called TPP1. When this protein is inhibited, the virus is better
able to replicate itself.

And this is the good news bad news part of
the story. In bad news, you can still spread the virus even if you’re not showing symptoms.
One study published in JAMA found that 20% of people with symptoms were “shedding”
the virus, and even 10% of those without symptoms “shed” the virus. But, there might be a good side to herpes.
One study published in the journal Nature found that it offered protection from serious
diseases like the plague.. at least in mice. Basically the virus makes your immune system
make more of a protein hormone called inter-fear-on gamma (interferon). This sets your system
on high alert, so your immune is ready to attack other invaders. In this case, it protects
against bacterial infections like the plague and food poisoning, But just in case you’re ready to give up
the benefits and the sores, there might be some hope. There’s a lot of research on
the herpes virus, and a lot of potential for cures or treatments. The more common types
of drugs like acyclovir tend to focus on the stage when the virus is multiplying in the
skin. A tricky place since the virus can often build resistance to treatment at that stage.
But scientists are working on that.

Like one study published in the journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences found that the herpes virus goes through a kind
of bottleneck in the body as moves from it’s dormant state in nerve cells into skin cells.
Only a few cells make the harrowing journey, and once they’re in the skin cells, usually
in the lip, that they multiply. So scientists are looking to target this transitional period
since the virus might be more susceptible to drug treatments. So scientists keep working on drugs that work
at earlier stages, like one drug tested in a study published in the journal Science Translational
Medicine used an epigenetic approach. The drug they studied exists already and they
found it blocked a protein called LSD1 which works in early stages of the virus and can
turn genes on and off.

By blocking the protein, the drug kept the virus latent. So yeah, that’s herpes. You probably have
it, you can still spread it when you’re not showing symptoms, there’s no cure, but
there are some decent treatment options. While viral STIs can’t be cured, they can be prevented
with proper sex education, practicing safe sex, and some can be prevented by vaccines,
like HPV! Wanna know more about the HPV vaccine? Check out this video right here. Alright guys curious about other STIs? Ask your questions down below and we might
just answer in a future video!.

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