According to various recent news articles, researchers at Duke University have made a discovery that could make cold sore sufferers very happy. They have found that HSV-1, which is very common and typically causes cold sores on the mouth, produces microbits of genetic material, called LAT RNA, which cause the virus to lay dormant in one’s body. When someone has an outbreak only part of the virus comes to the surface while the remainder stays latent, possibly growing stronger. So even when one takes an anti-viral, the medication is only affecting part of the disease, but not the whole. It is this characteristic that makes herpes so hard to get rid of.
Scientists believe that if they can design a drug to prevent the function of LAT RNA, they could potentially wake up the virus in its entirety. By doing so, the virus would become fully exposed, and then a herpes sufferer could take Acyclovir, which would at that point, theoretically, get rid of the virus completely.
For more details about this research, check out the Time article at http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1819739,00.html
I think this is very exciting news. Although they say that genital herpes is harder to defeat, and they are probably years away from making a drug to inhibit the LAT RNA, understanding how the herpes virus works brings us much closer to a cure than we were before.
I do, however, have some skepticism about how researchers believe they will knock out the virus using Acyclovir. In the article, Dr. Bryan Cullen, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Duke University says, “…once it’s active, Acyclovir can be used to destroy the virus permanently.” From what I’ve read about Acyclovir I understand that it does not kill the herpes virus, but rather blocks it from replicating. So even if all the bits of virus were brought out of hibernation, I don’t see how that medicine could permanently get rid of the disease. Sure, the virus will stop replicating...but then what? Will they die on their own? And how will the drug be able to get the entire virus out? I guess I believe that if I’ve been taking Acyclovir every time I have an outbreak, that, according to these scientists, I should be getting rid of the virus a bit at a time…which I’m not. I understand why I’m not; the virus goes back into my body and grows strong again but…dammit, why can’t they develop a drug that actually kills the virus, not just oppresses it? If the virus lives in my spinal fluid...can I please have a spinal fluid transplant? I'd take a spinal tap over a lifetime of herpes...I would! :-)
Those are just my thoughts. What do you think?