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Why and how herpes sores come and go

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers discover why herpes comes and goes

Researchers understand now why the herpes sores come and go. Outbreaks conjure up negative images, but the truth is most of us have experienced a cold sore or have some form of the virus.

Understanding why herpes disappears and then comes back has been a mystery until now.

Charles H. Cook, M.D., FACS, FCCM, director of surgical critical care at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio, and a researcher involved in the work said in a new release, "We hope that by understanding how these latent viral infections are controlled that we can prevent reactivation events and improve people's lives."

Herpes is a painful condition. Cold sores that usually appear on the mouth, but can appear anywhere on the body, can interfere with a positive self-image. Genital herpes can interfere with sex, leading to frustration and anger. The virus is easily spread and can increase the risk of HIV even when herpes sores are not active.

According to the CDC, genital herpes affects one in six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49.

Researchers for the new study used mice to discover how and why the herpes virus reactivates to cause disease.

The researchers discovered that bacterial infections reduce the number of infection fighting T-cells that keep the virus under control.

Once the body realizes herpes has been reactivated things return to normal and the virus again deactivates.

Our bodies are designed to fight disease, but sometimes the immune system fails.

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"Finding ways to control herpes flare ups is important, not only for the health of the person with the virus, but also for preventing its transmission," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

"This report highlights the important interplay when we are 'co-infected' with more than one microbe and provides important insights into why the immune system sometimes fails as well as how it can regain control of latent herpes virus infections."

If you’re having an outbreak of herpes it may mean your immune system isn’t up to par. Maintaining a healthy immune system can have a remarkable effect on fighting disease. Keeping the immune system healthy requires a whole body approach.

Researchers are still trying to understand what it takes to boost immunity and fight diseases.

Products that are touted to prevent herpes, colds, cancer and other diseases often have no scientific basis.

But the good news is you might be able to prevent herpes outbreaks by getting plenty of sleep, learning how to control and manage stress and making sure you get plenty of exercise.

Other ways to keep immunity intact to avoid outbreaks of herpes include good hand washing, regular medical screenings, maintaining normal weight, consuming alcohol in moderation, avoidance of smoking tobacco and following an overall healthy lifestyle.

Journal of Leukocyte Biology
November, 2012

Harvard Health Publications
How to Boost your Immune System

Image credit:
CDC Public Health Library