# Friday, 03 May 2013
Posted: Friday, 03 May 2013 | Categories: Herpes

Some viruses, such as the herpes varicella-zoster virus, never leave the infected persons body. Instead, they remain dormant in the central nervous system and flare up occasionally. Yet, the long-term consequences of having certain viruses remain relatively unexplored. However, one study that has come to our attention recently has tried to do this. Here we consider the findings of a study that sought to see whether a cumulative presence of infections would have an impact on cognitive functioning.


The study, which was published in Neurology included a total of 1625 participants. At the start of the study, the participants were 69 years old on average. The studies lasted eight years, and during this time the researchers performed a range of tests and assessments. They analysed blood samples for herpes simplex 1 and 2 and cytomegalovirus. In addition to that, they screened all the participants for Chlamydia pneumoniae and helicobacter pylori. Lastly, they performed annual tests to assess changes in cognitive abilities such as memory. The key findings indicated that a high level of infection was related to an increased risk of memory deficiencies. This association remained even after mental sharpness, education, smoking, heart disease and diabetes were taken into account. However, the researchers were keen to stress that their study reflected an association and not causation. As such, they recommended that further studies be carried out within this field.


Although it looks like an acceptable study on the face of it, we cannot help but feel a bit sceptical about it. One of the reasons for that is that many aspects relating to the rationale were not sufficiently clarified in the publication. In particular, it was not mentioned how long the individuals had had each virus before the researchers detected an increased risk for poorer memory. As such, there was no baseline to compare the findings to. Similarly, we cannot help but feel that a case-control study that sought to give participants a battery of rigorous and reliable cognitive tests would have been more suitable for the type of research that was being carried out. That’s not to say that the current study lacked qualities worth replicating. The sample and the adjustment for confounding variables as well as the long follow up period are commendable. Therefore, it is our hope that further studies aiming to confirm and extend on these findings will be undertaken.

# Monday, 15 April 2013
Posted: Monday, 15 April 2013 | Categories: Herpes

It is rare for most people to think about infants when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. Yet reports concerning HIV and herpes in infants have been cropping up rather regularly in the media lately.


It was recently reported that two infants in New York City were infected with herpes as a result of being circumcised in a rather controversial way. Specifically, in the procedure called metzitzah b'peh, the practitioner was required to orally suck the baby’s penis in order to cleanse the wound. Although this is in stark contrast to the way prevailing circumcision procedures are carried out (where sterile tools are used to clean the wound), there is still a minority of families that prefer this practice.


When an infant is infected with a virus, the effects of it are different from what they would be for an adult, as an infant does not have a fully developed immune system. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been past cases where infants’ herpes infection has led to brain damage and even death. In milder effects, the infants have had a fever (which is not unusual in adults). Given this, it is not surprising that the health department has informed medical staff to be vigilant to cases of male infant sepsis and to ask whether this could be due to circumcision. In addition to that, regulations have been passed that require that parents of a child sign a consent form that allows the oral sucking to occur during the procedure.


Although the two infants that were infected have survived, it is not clear whether there will be any long-term effects to their health. In general, the prognosis of neonatal herpes infection is unclear as contracting this illness is rather unusual and the known cases have not reached adulthood yet. As such, it also raises questions of how to treat these cases.


Naturally these cases should not be taken lightly. However, it is also important to remember that parents should be allowed the choice of how to circumcise their children. Perhaps, rather than having parents sign consent for the procedure, it would be more prudent to ensure that the practitioners carrying out the procedure are not posing a risk to the child.

# Thursday, 25 October 2012
Posted: Thursday, 25 October 2012 | Categories: Herpes

Although clinical trials with the aim to develop a safe and efficient herpes vaccination can be dated back to 1920, there is no available cure or immunisation for genital herpes at the current time. However, an early online publication of a study in Nature suggests that researchers’ are one step closer to developing a vaccination model which differs from previous attempts.

Previous studies have primarily focused on the so-called T-cells, which are known as the immune system’s anti bodies. Generally, when a virus or uncommon bacteria is circulating in the body, the T-cells respond to it and also learn to recognise it in case a future encounter will occur. Therefore, if a virus or some bacteria reappear, then the T-cells are prepared to respond. However, this is not effective in all organs as T-cells have restricted entry to the central nervous system, intestines, vagina and lung airways.

In an attempt to circumvent this issue, the researchers’ have utilised an alternative vaccination approach which entails “priming” and “pulling”. The former consists of a conventional vaccination which aims to provoke a system-wide T-cell response whereas the latter aims to recruit T-cells directly into the vaginal tissue via an application of chemokine’s, which are known to help mobilize immune cells. By using this methodology on female mice, the researchers’ key findings indicated that it was possible for the T-cells to create a long-term niche and reduce the spread of the virus into the sensory neurons.

Although this study was conducted by highly established researchers at Yale Medical School, it is likely that a considerable amount of research is required before these findings are translated to human treatment.

# Friday, 15 June 2012
Posted: Friday, 15 June 2012 | Categories: Herpes

Recently a client of the e-Harmony dating website contracted genital herpes, a lifelong virus that includes episodic breakouts and means that for the duration of your life, you have the potential to be infectious and can pass the virus onto other people through sexual activity. This woman took legal action against the man who gave the virus to her since it had caused her harm both physically and emotionally.

Over the last couple of years there have been a number of law suits relating to the spread of herpes with intent. Many of these cases report that the person being prosecuted did not know they were infectious, as was the case with the e-Harmony client who passed the infection to his unsuspecting date.

With 1 in 6 people in the US reported to have herpes and with condoms offering only some protection against this particular sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can be difficult to avoid carriers if you have multiple sexual partners. It is believed that around 10% of the UK population has the virus. The most you can hope for is that a partner will tell you about their sexual history, however embarrassing it might be for them but many of those infected do not know that they remain infections even when they are not displaying obvious symptoms. Some think that when they have had an outbreak and have treated it that the virus is gone for good.

Herpes will never go away and it is easily contracted. Looking at the climbing STI rates all over the world, it is believable to think that some individuals who pass it on are not aware that they are doing so and have not been malicious in their intent but rather ignorant about the virus they carry. Questioning a partner about their sexual history is vital before making the decision to engage in sexual activity – although we understand that this can be awkward and can ruin the moment.

Education is a huge factor and once again it seems the public is largely ignorant as far as herpes is concerned. In the end the e-Harmony client won damages and the jury stated that the woman taking action was 25% negligent versus the man’s 75% negligence. There must be thousands who have contracted herpes in this way and not many of them involve court cases.

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