Scientists Discover How the Herpes Virus Infects the Nervous System

Researchers from the North-western University Feinberg School of Medicine in the U.S have looked into the herpes virus infecting the nervous system. Scientists agree that the virus invades cells of sensitive organs before entering the nervous system and hiding in the D.N.A. However, until now, they have had little knowledge of how this occurs.

Impacts of herpes

Herpes virus is in over two-thirds of the human population. It exists as either type 1 (HSV-1), an oral variety, or the sexual variety, HSV-2. The virus comes with different symptoms, such as cold sores. When severe, it can even invade the eye, causing blindness.

Herpes can be dangerous for pregnant women as the mother can transmit the infection to the baby during delivery. In the last twenty years, over 1000 infant immortality cases have resulted from the disease. The disease manifests as lesions on the infant’s body. While most babies get better, it can spread to other organs or reach the brain leading to death.

The problem worsens when herpes enters the D.N.A. It alters cellular programming so that the body produces more of the virus. Many experts have grappled with how the virus gets into the nucleus.

The study found that pUL36 is responsible for herpes hijacking the nucleus. This compound is a protein that the virus secretes. Previous studies indicate that it binds to dynein molecules that play a role in forming the cell.

Herpes virus uses kinesin and dynein

The virus appears to use dynein and kinesin, a protein found in microtubules that support the cell to make its way around it. Although many viruses use this method, herpes could steal half a set from one cell type and use it in another to move effectively. For this reason, it moved quickly into the nucleus.

Before this research, scientists had never found a virus that could reuse cellular proteins from other cells to infect new ones.

According to Gregory Smith, the lead study author and Microbiology-immunology professor at the university, knowing how herpes invades neurons use could help scientists find ways to stop it.

This finding could allow scientists to treat other illnesses, including COVID-19 and HIV.

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