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New Cure For Herpes

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A new vaccine is being developed that may offer a potential way to cure painful cold sores and shingles.

Scientists may have found a new treatment for herpes that can flush the virus out from the body altogether.

Last year, researchers discovered a mysterious gene carried by the herpes simplex-1 virus, that allows the virus to hide away in the nerves it infects.

By using pieces of genetic material known as microRNAs, it may be possible to wake up the virus then kill it with standard antiviral drugs like acyclovir, explained Jennifer Lin Umbach of Duke University in North Carolina, who worked on the study.

“We are trying to go into animal trials,” she added.

MicroRNA To Help Cure Herpes

Herpes simplex 1(HSV-1) causes cold sores while herpes simplex-2 (HSV-2) causes genital herpes. Once infected, the virus buries itself in nerve cells where remains permanently, causing periodic outbreaks.

Although acyclovir can reduce symptoms, it does so only when the virus is active.

There have other promising vaccines over the recent years. In 2000, researchers developed a vaccine that protected women from HSV-2. But the vaccine did not work on women who had been infected with HSV-1, and it offered no protection for men.

Bryan Cullen, who oversaw the research said:

“Inactive virus is completely untouchable by any treatment we have. Unless you activate the virus, you can’t kill it.”

The Duke team has collaborated with Regulus Therapeutics LLC, a company that specializes in micrRNA, to continue research into the new vaccine.

Lin’s team found that a gene called LAT controls the microRNAs responsible for turning off other genes in the virus.

“The presence of these active microRNAs keep the virus dormant…

“When the virus is activated by stress like UV (ultraviolet) light or a wound, production of (other) genes goes up.”

Then LAT is overwhelmed and unable to keep the virus in check. If there was a drug that could turn off the microRNAs, the virus and all copies could be killed with acyclovir.

“You would have one cold sore but you would get rid of it,” she said. Curing something more painful, such as shingles, might be a little trickier, she added.

One class of drug researchers think may work are known as antagomir’s. Umbach said:

“These chemically engineered oligonucleotides are short segments of RNA that can be made into mirror images of a targeted bit of genetic material — such as the herpes microRNAs. They would attach and “silence” the microRNA.”

If a successful vaccine for herpes could be developed, the potential market is huge. A study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that one in five Americans have genital herpes HSV-2, and over 100 million have the HSV-1 virus.

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