The Killer Virus You Did Not Know You Carried
While most viruses manifest and are tackled rather overtly, one rather devious disease likes to lie dormant and circumvent the immune system until this defense is weakened and an attack will not fail: the rather bothersome human cytomegalovirus also known as herpes.
Herpes can be contracted by simple exposure, which is not at all hard when 65% of the world’s population are carriers. Rather hard to avoid contact in this case, unless one lies as a hermit. Often, the virus is passed along when still in the toddler stage through saliva and touching infected areas before putting hand in mouth, as well as when sexually matured as sexually transmitted diseases.
While an individual is healthy, the HCMV virus is not a cause for worry. On the other hand, should the defenses be lowered or weakened by other afflictions, it just may raise its ugly head and strike, especially organ and bone marrow transplant patients. This means that the drugs which lower the immune defenses to prevent the body’s rejection of the transplant may indeed be opening the floodgates to death. Also, the organs used to replace damages ones might carry the virus themselves, effectively contaminating the new body they inhabit and becoming a lethal weapon against life.
Are only patients prone to contracting HCMV?
If this cold-hearted murderer’s antics were not enough already, there’s pregnancy and unborn children to worry about. After all, a mother who becomes infected or whose virus decides to activate while she carries her child would essentially be transferring the disease, the baby to be born with HCMV.
There is no cure for the infection, nor any way to prevent it. It can be suppressed but never eradicated. That does not mean that there are no doctors tirelessly researching new treatments to finally rid the world of this cruel silent killer. Major changes in the affected cells have already been identified and novel innovations are considered.
At the moment, there are certain immunotherapeutic techniques which could possibly eradicate the problem of HMCV activation, especially during organ and bone marrow transplants. They are rudimentary but show great promise. A decade ago, such a thing was impossible to imagine. Let’s hope it does not take another decade to figure out how to kill the killer.
Science going Dexter on herpes?
Source: University of Cambridge