“Sumo Herpes Virus” Spreading in Skin Contact Sports

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • The viral condition, "Herpes Gladiatorum", known colloquially as "sumo virus" or "scrumpox", has resulted in the deaths of two Japanese wrestlers. A new and more pathogenic strain of the virus has been discovered.


    Researchers have studied the spread of the virus in Japanese sumo wrestlers and reported their findings in the Journal of General Virology. One particular strain, BgOL, is most commonly associated with herpes gladiatorum. However the researchers discovered BgKL to be an even more common and more prevalent strain in the samples they studied.


    "Scrumpox" is spread through skin contact with an infected person. Sports such as wrestling or rugby are particularly high risk activities because of the amount of skin contact and the likelihood of minor abrasions and scratches. Sumo wrestlers live and train together and this provides the perfect environment for the virus to spread. Symptoms include a rash of blisters on the face, neck, arms or legs, swollen glands and a sore throat. The virus may remain dormant for periods of time and then re-emerge.

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    Dr. Kazuo Yanagi, research leader from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, reviewed samples from 39 sumo wrestlers. The ScienceDaily website quotes Yanagi as saying, "our research showed that the BgKL strain of herpes is reactivated, spreads more efficiently and causes more severe symptoms than BgOL and other strains. This is the first study to suggest that the recurrence of herpes gladiatorum symptoms in humans may depend on the strain of the virus."


    The fact that two wrestlers died of their infections has prompted Dr Yanagi to state that cases need further investigation. However, speaking to the BBC news, clinical virologist Professor Will Irving, regards life-threatening complications as "very unlikely" in otherwise healthy people. "The effect is rather like having cold sores, except the lesions will come up on your back, or somewhere else on your skin, instead of your mouth. To the vast majority of people, it would be a nuisance, but nothing more serious."



    Society for General Microbiology (2008, September 29). Deadly Rugby Virus Spreads in Sumo Wrestlers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080928210041.htm


    BBC News. ‘Sumo Virus' warning issued. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/health/7637982.stm

Published On: October 06, 2008